If you are anything like me, the last few days you have been thinking a lot about the Christmas story. The birth of Christ is one of the most beautiful, picturesque stories in the entire Bible. Luke 2 captures the events of Christ’s birth perfectly. However, I would argue that it almost does so too perfectly.
Now, I am not saying that the Bible is messed up or incorrect, my claim in this post is that we, in our 21st century minds, have sanitized and sterilized the story of Christ’s birth so much that we forget that Luke 2 is about real people that are dealing with real life problems. Luke 2 is not a fairy tale, it is a real event that deals with real people with real emotions. In fact, when we dive into the Christmas story, you might see how it is more “human” than many other stories of the Bible!
Why Were They In Bethlehem?
In Luke 2, everyone went back to their city of origin to be taxed. Now, this was more than just a yearly income type tax, this was a major census. Caesar Augustus (v. 1) wanted to take stock of how many people lived under his rule, the verse says the “whole world should be taxed” as in, the whole Roman Empire. It is amazing that the events that got Mary and Joseph into Bethlehem were not some strange, cosmological happenings where all the stars lined up perfectly and then POOF they were there. Christ was born in Bethlehem because of a tax and a census. The next time you are tempted to complain about taxes, don’t forget that it was a tax that got Jesus to Bethlehem. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, we will ALL still complain about taxes!
Why Was There No Room In the Inn?
Kreig and I deal with this some in our latest Christmas episode, so I will not belabor this point too much. However, we need to cut this “innkeeper” some slack. First off, this person had no way of knowing that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. Besides that, there were literally no vacancies in this establishment. People from all over the world were traveling back to Bethlehem for this taxing. It is likely that people were not just sleeping in bedrooms, but also in hallways, in the kitchen, in whatever space they could find. “No room” literally meant, “There isn’t even a small corner for y’all to squeeze into!”
This makes the actions of the innkeeper the more generous. Although there was no room indoors, he did have room in his stable. In the stable, Mary and Joseph would have had some privacy and some room. Was it a 4 star hotel? No. But it was a place to crash. Plus, consider this. If you have ever had a baby before (I have not, but my wife has) would you rather have a baby in the middle of a bunch of total strangers with little to no room to move or would you rather have a baby in relative privacy? In this situation, the stable was a more preferable place, in some way, than in the inn.
Difficulties Concerning the Pregnancy
Now, I am not saying that Mary had some physical difficulties that made pregnancy harder, but I am saying that there were some external forces that made this pregnancy very difficult.
First, Mary was not married, she was espoused to Joseph, but she was not married. The most logical, truthfully the ONLY logical explanation for Mary having a baby was that she had committed fornication. If the baby were Joseph’s, it would have been outside of marriage and still wrong. If the baby was not Joseph’s then that would add the layer of cheating on a “spouse”. Although not stated, we can assume that Mary was mistreated and judged during her pregnancy. In fact, Joseph could have had her stoned and most of society would have agreed that he had made the right choice. Mary was willing to sacrifice her godly reputation in order to follow the will of God in her life.
Second, and this is something that I thought about just the other day, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem during Mary’s third trimester of pregnancy. Now, I have never been pregnant before, but observing my wife being pregnant and other women being pregnant, I can make a pretty educated guess that Mary was MISERABLE. Who wants to go on a road trip, riding on a donkey, when you are just days away from having a baby? Again, this wasn’t even a fun road trip, but one that was centered around being taxed. Woohoo!! I am sure that Mary did not have the nicest things to say about Caesar Augustus during this road trip.
Why do I bring these things to light? What significance does all of this add to the Christmas story? Not much by itself, but it does reinforce the truth that Jesus left so much to come to this world. He left the ivory palaces of Heaven to dwell amongst man with all of our human problems. He could have at least been born in a palace with a crib made out of gold; instead he choose a manger of wood and straw. The humanity of the Christmas story just makes the name Emmanuel, God with us, even more precious.
Merry Christmas, folks!