And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
As a person who is more at home indoors than out, I cannot imagine how Mary felt. Like, as the mother of the Savior, God could have at least arranged an Airbnb. But of all places where our Savior could have entered the world, a stable was the host location.
Perhaps a little suite at the best local hospital, under the care of highly-trained physicians? Instead, a barn hosted the greatest miracle in the history of the world. Not a castle, a fortress, or a hotel room, but a stable.
I can’t imagine it smelled like the Nest Holiday candle. I can’t imagine the animals were quiet. I can’t imagine the hay was soft or comfortable. I can’t imagine it was even well-lit. But this un-fragrant and dirty and lowly location was where Jesus Christ came to be.
No bassinet, no nursery decked in gingham or pastels, no embroidered going home outfit . . . Just our Savior in a manger.
I think we overcomplicate this birth and this whole holiday that is meant to celebrate it. We put all our efforts into wrapping the perfect gifts, cooking the most savory Christmas Eve dinner, and gathering matching Christmas pajamas. We strive for perfection, forgetting that the greatest gift we could ever receive entered this world in a stable that had to have been festering with animal smells.
Brennan Manning said, "You could more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing love of God made present in the manger." You can't wrap this up and put it under the tree this year. You can't bake this and hand it out to neighbors. You can't plan this or accomplish this on your own.
But you can receive it.
In your stable of sorts, on the flooring panels your knees have fallen to, in your car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, on the flight en route to a tense family environment—you can receive it.
In your misery, in your longing, in your annoyance over cleaning up after your dog for the 15th day in a row, in the filth of your sin—you can receive it.
In your waiting, in your exhaustion, in your dark December that is nothing like the warmth of a Christmas candle—you can receive it.
There are no lengths to the love of God. He sent His only Son to be born in a stable. And He sent that same Son to die on a cross to rescue us from the stench of our sin.
Of all places, a stable housed the Savior's birth. And in all your broken places this Christmas, you can receive the ultimate gift from this ever-loving God: Jesus Christ, coming again to make all things new.