As we gather today, it should be clear to us that Christmas is
about the birth of God’s son into the world. Now when a new baby is born to
someone in our church family, there are a few pieces of information I always
have to make sure that I get, because I know that people will ask me! I have to
know that mom and baby are doing well, the baby’s name, and how big the baby
is. How long and how much did the baby weigh. Important information. Oh, and I
often hear women talking about how long the labor lasted, and if it was back
labor. None of that is in the bible, so you can tell Luke, the writer is a man,
because he has left out the important details.
Despite leaving all of that out, he gives us a lot of details about where
Jesus is born. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem to be counted for the Roman
census, and because there was no room for them in the inn, Jesus ends up being
born in a stable. Luke feels that we absolutely need to know this. Why? What is
so important about where Jesus is born?
I think Luke tells us that because first, it is unexpected for the savior
to be born here, and second, it says something about what kind of man, and what
kind of savior, Jesus is going to be. Let me explain. Jesus was the Messiah, he
was the promised one, the one who would be the true king and restore Israel. To
be that, there are many places Jesus could have been born, but he wasn’t. In
fact there are a lot of places Jesus would have been expected to be born,
people would have looked for him there, but a stable was certainly not one of
So for example, Jesus could have been born in a military
Compound of to a military family. For those in the Zionist movement at the
time that was what they expected. They expected the messiah to be a military
leader. Such a birth would have prepared us for a man of force and violence. He
would have led the people in a revolution, with weapons and bloodshed. The
Israelites might have been set free from Rome, and the independence of their nation
restored at the cost of many lives. Of course, there had been leaders like that
before, people who tried the military freedom option, but it never worked out.
Israel just wasn’t strong enough even with military leaders to achieve their
salvation that way. So Jesus wasn’t born there.
Or Jesus could have been born in a palace or governors house.
Such a birth would have prepared us for a man of political influence and
power. He might have used manipulation and double dealing to gain prestige and
move up in the world and lived off his ego while others suffered at his hand. Unlike
the military leader, he probably wouldn’t risk a direct revolution, it would
have been a dangerous affront to Rome, and losing a war means losing your head,
so he probably would have chosen the status quo and the power he had, while
looking for every political opportunity to gain more. And yes, every generation
had these leaders too. Those who ultimately became part of the very system that
people were hoping to be saved from. So Jesus wasn’t born there either.
Or Jesus could have been born in the home of a wealthy family.
Such a birth would have prepared us for a gentleman of privilege, who knew
nothing of the hungry and homeless. He might have used money to buy himself
into leadership, bribed his way to the top, and exploited the poor to further
his gains. As a leader, he would have brought economic freedom for the rich,
and better trade with Rome, but little else. Because no matter how wealthy he
got, he would not be able to buy off Rome. And every generation had those
leaders too, but they never turned out to be the messiah of the nation. So
Jesus wasn’t born there either.
And in case you think I am being political, let me add that
Jesus could have been born in the temple to the family of a priest. As the
son of God that religious upbringing might make sense. But then such a birth
would have prepared us for a person from the religious establishment, who saw
religion the way it always had been, and was a fervent protector of tradition.
He might have used his religious influence to strengthen ties with the other
religious groups reinforcing the ideas of religious elitism. If he succeeded in
creating a revolution, it would have been a religious conservatism enacted into
national law. And there were leaders like that in every generation too. They
were trying to be messiahs, they had every intention of saving people, but
something just wasn’t right. And so Jesus wasn’t born there either.
No, Jesus was born in a stable.
And we know what that means. It means humble beginnings, and being told
there isn’t room for you here. It means understanding what it means to be among
the least, the persecuted, the poor. It means struggling for everything he had.
He was born with angels watching over him singing songs of peace and goodwill, denying
the need for a military solution and implying religious change. The early
companions to his birth are shepherds and sheep, a reminder that he would be
like a shepherd to his people. That he would guide and protect, even as he
cared for the littlest of lambs. He was born running from the political
leaders, as a refugee. A reminder that there would always be those who were
afraid of him, threatened by him, because he saw the truth behind their
And because of all of that he is exactly what people needed, even if it
wasn’t what they expected. He doesn’t lead an army, he doesn’t lead the
government, he doesn’t lead business, he doesn’t even take leadership in the
temple. Instead he brings the kingdom of God, which changes everything and
challenges everything. His revolution is one of grace, of acceptance, of
forgiveness, and of self-sacrifice. The salvation he brings sets people free
from all that binds them, whether it is military or political, or economic or
even religious. He sets people free from the sins of all those areas, the death
that all those areas can bring.
Being born in the stable means that Jesus comes to people like us! To save
us from our very real and everyday problems. That is why Luke wants to make
sure that we know, so that we know the kind of man Jesus is going to be. He is
the kind that turns worlds upside-down. Luke is saying, Prepare yourself to
witness the power of God’s love as it becomes incarnate, in the flesh – watch
what Jesus will do for you, for all humanity. Miracles are on the way that will
change your life. Get ready, because the Messiah wasn’t born where you expect,
so he is going to do some unexpected things.
Even now, so many years after it happened, it still seems surprising that
God would do it this way, and so that is why it is important that every year we
remind ourselves again – this is the kind of man Jesus was – even though I know
some of you would still like to know if he weighed 7 pounds 4 ounces or 6 pound