Why was Jesus Born in a Manger and Not a Palace?
Every detail of Jesus’ birth account is important. There is deep meaning in each aspect of His birth when we dig in and find it. There is no mistakes in anything God did in Jesus being born from the fact that He comes as a baby to the gifts that are given to Him by the Wisemen. We likely are very familiar with the Nativity story. We have seen many versions of it in various forms, from little ceramic figures on a mantle to living history presentations.
But have we ever stopped to ask the question of why? Why was Jesus born in a stable surrounded by animals?
He could have born in a palace with all of the glory and riches of the world surrounding Him. Why was the Savior of the world born amongst the stink and filth of barn animals? Why were the only witnesses His family, the animals, and shepherds, the lowest people on the social ladder in Israel at the time?
The answer is really simple. It is to encourage even the least of us to come to Him for grace and mercy. It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Even the place of Mary’s delivery expresses this amazing heart. A loving Savior chose the perfect place from which to seek even the lowest of His sheep.
A Baby in a Barn
It was significantly less publicized back when it actually took place. It was also much less celebrated. The angel Gabriel comes to a poor girl named Mary with incredible news. She is going to have a baby who will be the Savior of the whole world.
This is great news..but complicated. Mary was a young girl likely in her teens. She was engaged but not yet married. She was going to have a baby without being married. Young unmarried pregnant girls in that culture did not get their own reality shows. They were judged guilty of adultery. Mary certainly knew this when Gabriel laid out the plan to her and yet her response is so simple and wonderful. She is the Lord’s servant. Let it be as God wishes!
Count the Cost
Joseph is also a faithful man. He is an unsung hero of Christmas. For more read A Christmas Hero. He receives God’s direction and accepts Mary as his wife. There is still a great cost involved in bearing Jesus despite this faithfulness.
In a small close knot society like ancient Israel, the timeline of one’s conception and birth was not missed. People would have known that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock. The shame involved followed the couple wherever they went. Even more than 30 years later, when Jesus is talking with the religious leaders they subtly accuse Him of being illegitimate. This social stigma likely played a part in putting Mary’s labor and delivery suite in with the cows. The cost of obedience to God is often scorn of man.
Joseph and Mary were required by Ceaser to return to his family’s hometown of Bethlehem to register for the census. There were many other people coming in similar circumstances needing lodging. Each person would seek out a relative to stay with while they were in town. Israel’s culture was based on hospitality, the giving, and receiving of it.
Who one invited in their home was a reflection upon the honor of that home. Refusing hospitality was something done only when there was a serious problem present. It was an insult to one seeking it. Joseph takes his new family back to his ancestral home and there is no room for anywhere for the arriving Savior. There is no relative willing to bear the stigma associated with the child who will take them in.
God uses All Things for Good
Jesus uses this setback to send an awesome message. Come to me all who are weary! All means all – not just the royalty.
Jesus specifically describes Himself as lowly or meek and humble. In this humility, He invites the whole world to come to Him. Jesus makes it easy to do so. He makes Himself easily approachable.
The shepherds who hear the announcement of Jesus’ birth respond with fear. When the angels appear, the shepherds are terrified. The glory of God is like a powerful waterfall in its unbelievably beauty and power. Sinful man is undone with fear when we see even glimpses of it. Man could never come to Jesus on His rightful throne. It would be terrifying!
The same shepherds run eagerly to see Jesus in a stable. Joseph and Mary in the stable with the animals it is not a pretty sight. It is far from comfortable. The cows and sheep that attend Jesus’ birth are smelly and loud. Mary’s delivery room was not sterile. There is probably not a lower place on earth for the baby to be born than in a stable in a small town in a tiny country in the backwater of the Roman Empire.
This is exactly the point. No one is excluded from a stable.
Anyone Can Come to Jesus
Jesus could have been born in Herod’s palace. He could appear in the middle of the Roman Coliseum with all the ceremony that the Roman Empire could provide. This is His right as Lord!
Yet, our Savoir chose to be born with the animals because He loves us that much. He chose rejection, discomfort, and a lowly birth for us.
Only the perfect can approach God on His throne. Anyone can approach Him in a barn. There is nothing scary about a stable. He does this because He wants us to come without fear. He seels to save us from what we have done. Jesus removes all of the earthly impediments to our approaching Him.
No matter where we were born or who our parents are, Jesus can relate. He says come to me anyway.
The shepherds on the night of Jesus birth were considered to be the lowest member of society. They were viewed with disgust by the finer people. They were never welcome in palaces or great houses. They were perfectly at home where Jesus was born, though. The Lord did not make a mistake when He arrived as a crying little baby in that humble place. The lowest came to Him, saw the Savior and their lives were changed.
No matter where we are now, where we were born, or how lost we have gotten, He makes the same offer today.
“Come to Me everyone”, Jesus invites. There is nothing to stop us. No one is too far gone to be intimidated by a baby in a barn.