“Do you think Jesus was born in a stable? 99% of people don't know what the Bible really says about the nativity story (and that includes donkeys, inns and wise men)”
This headline caught my attention this week. Most people’s ideas about the actual circumstances of Jesus’ Birth are what they did in the school nativity or from various children’s books or films on the subject. The fact is that this isn’t a fairy tale: this is a true story. Jesus was born around 2014 years ago (give or take a few years) and we’ll now just take a wee while to look at some of the details.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.” (Luke 2:1-3)
The whole Roman Empire was to register in the census so that the Romans could be sure everyone was paying their tax. In the majority of the Empire the citizens just registered in the town where they lived. In Palestine, however, it was done in a more Jewish way. Everyone was to return to the historical town of their family, so since Joseph was descended from King David, they were to return to Bethlehem the city of David. Now considering that King David lived about 1000 years before Joseph, the family would have grown quite large. Bethlehem was still quite a small town so you can imagine how hectic that would be.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
What you might be tempted to imagine here is a nice little stable with an open front, lots of clean soft hay, some donkey’s and cow’s lying about sleeping and Mary, Joseph and Jesus sitting in the middle of the scene with Kings and Shepherds and Angels all standing around them. The reality would be quite different than that. First of all there weren’t really many B&B’s or Travel Lodge’s or Premier Inn’s around back then so the inn that is spoken about would more likely be a guest room in the house of some extended family, or maybe even just a hut on their flat roof. Now considering the size of the family after 1000 years of expansion there was understandably no more room for the expectant couple. Now to the stable. It was customary for people in these times to have the animals in the house with them. The animals would inhabit the ground floor and there would be an upper mezzanine level for the family to live. This is probably what was meant by the stable. Instead of Mary and Joseph sleeping in the upper level with everyone else they would be given space in the lower lever with the animals. Cold, damp and alone. They’re only visitors, a small group of shepherds. This is where Jesus was born.
Now these circumstances would be normal for regular folk at the time. The people whose house this was probably wouldn't have thought twice about what happened that night. But take a while to consider: this isn’t just any wee boy that’s been born in such squalor.
This boy is the Son of God.
“Down from His glory,
Ever living story,
My God and Saviour came,
And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger,
To His own a stranger,
A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.
Bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night,
Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender,
Laid aside His splendour,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.
Flesh and blood His substance
He took the form of man,
Revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious myst’ry,
Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”
O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Saviour,
And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.”