On an ordinary night near the turn of the millennium, a young man and his very pregnant wife trudged into the small town of Bethlehem. When I say the word ‘small’, I don’t mean ‘oh how quaint’ small. I mean ‘doesn’t merit a dot on most people’s maps’ small. It maybe could be called a suburb of Jerusalem on a nice day. In reality, it was the place that they stuck the sheep and shepherds during the year when they weren’t needed for Passover.
‘Suburb’ really means ‘ghetto’.
It wasn’t really the nicest place. It wasn’t the best place to take your wife, and it definitely wasn’t the place you wanted her to go into labor.
So, of course, she promptly did.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Mary lived in Nazareth. In all likelihood, she was born and raised in Nazareth. Joseph also lived in Nazareth.
Jesus’ parents were hicks.
And it came time for a census, and they had to go to where their families used to live. So Joseph took Mary, his incredibly pregnant wife of three months, to Bethlehem, Jerusalem’s ghetto. And there was no room for them in the single inn that Bethlehem possessed.
So they stayed in a barn that night.
Of course, she went into labor. And Jesus was born in a barn, with cows and donkeys and sheep as the witnesses. Amidst the stench and the sounds of the animals, the hope of the whole world descended from Heaven. The indignity of humanity He accepted freely, and the discomfort of infanthood was His.
Babies are loud things. And messy things. And ugly things. There is nothing in a baby’s face that makes it beautiful; entirely objectively speaking, babies are ugly.
Jesus was a baby. There was nothing to recommend Him over other babies; probably you couldn’t pick him out of a group unless you were His mother. He was as normal as a baby could be.
Jesus had dirty diapers.
Normality is strange. Jesus was God incarnate; He should have been unusual, at least a little bit, shouldn’t He? But He wasn’t. As a child, we are never told that He preached to the children of Nazareth. He did not raise any of his friend’s pets from the dead. He did not make earth-shaking pronouncements of power.
He obeyed His parents, He worked with His father, He did His daily chores.
Who’da thunk it?