“And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
Two nights ago, our heater went out. Of course, the same night this happens, the temperature in Dallas got down to 25 degrees. Now if this was during my single years, or even pre-children years, I would have just bundled up and stuck it through that night. But with a 5-month old, we had to throw in the towel and have a slumber party at our friends house until we got the thing fixed.
I think I take for granted the comforts that we enjoy. When Kyler was born, we had nurses, doctors, expensive monitoring equipment, anesthesia for pain, warm beds to sleep in, and warm blankets for our newborn son. If our house, due to a broken down appliance, has the possibility of getting below 50 degrees, we leave and stay somewhere else. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have done that, but its an option that we have because of the comfort of friendships and community in our lives.
As I was relating the whole story to my mom, she reminded me how cold it must have been the night that Jesus was born. The draft coming over the hills of Bethlehem into the dank cave. There was probably the smell of dung surrounding them as the loud animals swarmed around the young family. They had to lay him in a food trough. This idyllic nativity we so often envision was really a cold, wet mess smelling of the sweat and feces of barn animals.
Until I had a son, these details meant nothing to me. I’ve slept in a cold tent, I’ve been in barns, I’ve been dirty before. Even if I had an accurate picture of the nativity, before having our son I wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal. But babies are different. The love that I have for him compels me to do everything I can to keep him from being cold or wet or dirty. At the possibility of uncomfortable cold in our house, we left.
I have a new found empathy for Mary and Joseph. Joseph, when pulling his horse and donkey into the back alley stable must have felt dejected and ashamed for not being able to provide his wife and newborn son better accommodations. Mary must have felt deeply guilty as she laid Jesus down to sleep in a food trough. They knew who that baby was, they knew God had entrusted them with the care of this long awaited Messiah, and this is the best they could do?
Now I am reading into the story something that is not explicitly stated. Despite the shame and embarrassment these two may have had given the circumstances, I suspect these two individuals were people of great faith. I’d like to think that in spite of their anxiousness, they also rested in the knowledge that God had been in control of the whole pregnancy. If this was how the birth happened, this was how it was supposed to happen.
I don’t know if they thought that, or really how they felt at all that night. But it is important to note that the way Jesus was born, the place and manner in which he entered this world, as dirty and cold and messy as it was, happened exactly how the prophets said it would.
Not all things happen according to our plan. We can feel rejected, embarrassed, frustrated, and defeated. We can feel any which way we like, but it doesn’t change the fact that despite the failure of our plans, God’s plans never fail. Even if the Saviour came into the world in a cold, congested cave, and even if the parents felt awful about everything, it happened according to plan.
Praise God for his unsearchable ways and perfect planning…and also praise God for fixed heaters!