And she gave birth to her firstborn son; And she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Childbirth is surely one of the most uncomfortable times in any woman’s life. It’s a time when a husband, at a loss to help with the actual birthing process, would want to provide the most comfortable environment for his laboring wife. But the Christmas Story, the accounts given us in the four Gospels, indicate that few comforts were Mary and Joseph’s as they stopped in Bethlehem at a very vulnerable and physically uncomfortable time.
Joseph could probably do nothing more than find clean straw for Mary to rest upon and scoop the remnants of feed out of an animal trough for her newborn. And Mary, without her mother or midwife familiar to her, endured the agony of labor with the scent of manure hanging in the air. We could easily imagine them filled with fear and anxiety. “There was nowhere to lean,” observed missionary and author, Elisabeth Elliot, except the Everlasting Arms. They had God’s word, specially delivered by the angel Gabriel.”
But was this the way the Messiah, the Savior of all mankind was to come? Had they misunderstood? Where was the angel now? Where was God? “Weak things, lowly things, painful things, silent things—the instinct of their faith told them God was in all of them…God had given them His Word. Therefore, they moved trustfully, quietly through each moment, God being in charge, God being in that moment,” wrote Elliot in her book Secure in the Everlasting Arms.
Would we have trusted at a moment like that? “But, Mary and Joseph had an angel speak to them!” you might say. Yes. God sent an angel with his Word. But He sent His only Son, to you and me. He’s given us His written Word. And He sent his very Spirit, come alongside, to comfort and guide each one of those who accept Him, whom He adopts as His very own.
Has there been a time in your life when you thought you had heard God’s voice loud and clear? You thought you knew how He would work, or should work in your life, to answer your prayers. You had His promises of provision. But you found yourself in a lonely, dark place, in unthinkable circumstances, in great confusion. Are you, or is someone you love, there now?
The shockingly humble beginning of Jesus’ life here on earth wasn’t what we would expect for the birth of the King of Kings. Yet here we find great hope! Elisabeth Elliot explained it:
So it may be for us when God’s order is the reverse of what we would expect. He is in each moment, in us, with us, as He is with the Holy Couple on their wearisome journey over the dusty roads and in the raw cattle shed. Should we expect to see how things are working together for our good? No, not yet. We see not yet. We only know.
The Christmas Story reminds us, when we cannot see, we go back to what we know: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). We know from Numbers 23:19 that he is not a man and he cannot lie. Psalms 136:1 assures us that His love never ends. He will be our refuge and comfort Nahum 1:7 declares. And you could sit with your Bible and go on and on, remembering what we know about Him, revealed to the man or woman who will read it.