Santa’s Helpers (also known as my grandchildren)
While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, she gave birth to her first son and wrapped him in strips of cloth. She laid him in a feed trough because there wasn’t any room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
Luke gives no details about Mary’s labor. We don’t know whether it was quick and easy or a struggle that lasted for hours. Other details are lacking as well. How much did Jesus weigh? What did he measure from head to toe? Was he born with thick dark hair? Were there any features of Joseph—any at all—found in Jesus’ face? Luke gives us only the delivery basics: she gives birth, wraps him in strips of cloths (just like his Hebrew ancestors Samson and Samuel), and places him in a feed trough.
Though none of the gospel writers includes the presence of animals at Jesus’ birth, Christmas cards and nativity scenes seem incomplete without them. If indeed Jesus was born in a stable, it’s not a stretch to imagine a variety of animals present, along with swarming fleas and dung piles. Animals or not, this delivery is anything but the antiseptically clean experience of first-world, modern-day births. No gowns or gloves, no mouth-covering masks, no sterilized instruments.
Nobody of importance is there either. No political attaché standing outside. Not a staff aide from Quirinius’s office checking on things. No reporter from the Bethlehem bureau writing copy. If God wanted the world’s attention, you’d think there would have been a thousand better places than in this poverty-stricken region for Jesus to be born. Nevertheless, here it is, somewhere outside an unnamed inn, in a cattle shed, in an all but unnoticed corner of the Roman Empire. Maybe this is just the beginning of how Jesus shatters our expectations.
When did you last experience holiness in an unexpected place?