The couple came from Nazareth, a town with a bad reputation.The mother was not married and was suspected all her life of birthing a child illegitimately. Gabriel had told her she was having a king. It looked nothing like a royal birth: the location, the birthing center, the mother, the guests, the surroundings. The birth of royalty should have been in “the city of the great king,” Jerusalem.
Bethlehem was buzzing with activity, but not for any Jewish royalty. It was compulsory cash for Caesar, who announced a global tax, maybe to help him build more roads to Rome. No one stopped to greet the new parents. They didn’t even know that a birth was taking place, and if they had, they wouldn’t have cared. More important things to do than see an unwed mother deliver a child with her boyfriend the only attendant. Good they didn’t make the birth more public. She could have been stoned.
Joseph most likely had relatives in town. He was from “the house and lineage of David.” That spells “Bethlehem.” I don’t think they believed his story. They did offer him a shack out back. It appears that she gave birth in the presence of animals. The baby was placed in a feeding trough, a poor excuse for a cradle and far less sanitary. An angel choir showed what heaven thought of the event, but they sang to shepherds outside of town, not to important people. The hillside gang came to congratulate the family, the only visitors at the birth. Wise men, most probably servants of a Gentile king, came months later. They were not royalty, nor were they likely wealthy, though their gifts looked like it. They perhaps gave all they had–like another Mary did with her perfume.
No one could have guessed that this child was going to be a king. Births of regal family members are typically anticipated for months, a history-making event. Not this time. God showed up– incognito, in lowliness. The soon-to-be-mother had received the announcement from an angel, so she knew of the importance, even if the surroundings seemed to tell a different story. She was able to keep “all these things and ponder them in her heart.”
She knew throughout the life of her boy that he was destined for the throne. Some moments she would have preferred him home rather than traveling as a poor itinerant teacher, supported by some well-to-do women and followed by common workers who had left their jobs. He didn’t know from day to day where he would be sleeping. Often he had no bed. He didn’t have a place to celebrate the Passover, so friends helped him out. He was rejected by the people he came to connect with, and he died the most humiliating and painful public death possible. And while he was dying, the beating and the barking that started the night before, continued through his shockingly shameful death right outside the city gates on a public thoroughfare. He was too poor to own a tomb for his own burial, so a wealthy new convert stepped in to help. (He only needed it for two nights). From start to finish–abject poverty, humiliation, rejection. He was the stone the builders of the nation rejected. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, a man from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). How is that for his first time around? (The 2nd coming next. First–a song).
Noisy night, strange birthing site. Nothing calm, none polite.
Labor pains in a small dump out back, even worse than a rickety shack
Sleep in spite of the smell, boy, sleep in spite of the smell
Noisy night, tax season fight, there’s no room, active womb
Baby sleeps where the animals feed, shepherds race to escape the stampede
You’re the only ones here, guys, you’re the only ones here.
Nonetheless, Mary’s impressed, God decreed, she believed
Treasured all within her heart, she had trusted God right from the start
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace!