The Christmas story has become really sanitized.
I mean literally. How many depictions do we see, how often do we think, of the Christ Child in the manger, surrounded by shining angels, kindly shepherds, pretty sheep… and bugs and worms, rotted bits of feed and dung, dirt and moldy straw?
The manger was likely in a rough, dark, musty cave, not in an open-air lean-to that the greeting cards portray.
We can also wonder whether Joseph and Mary were told “No room in the inn!” not only because the city was crowded… but perhaps because innkeepers declined rooms to unmarried pregnant girls.
Homeless…a mother who was single when she conceived… rejected…forced to the humblest place in the city to be born, farm animals as attendants: the Bible accurately calls it a lowly birth.
What has NOT been scrubbed clean from the story is that the Bible called it a lowly birth hundreds of years before it happened, in every particular – these details and many more. Truly this was the Son of God.
But we should not turn to the next pretty greeting card this Christmas season. Linger in that stable, and you will see more. You will see children today born in similar circumstances. Parents in distress. No place to live. Little to eat. Rejected and despised.
When God chose to humble Himself and become flesh, He emptied Himself of His royal nature, and became… middle class? A suburbanite fretting over student loans? Someone managing a household budget and hobbies? OK, those might not be profiles of average Bethlehemites of the day… but they are not profiles of millions of babies born around the world today, either.
God identified with the most basic level of humanity. He meets us at our humblest places, conditions, and realities.
When we think of this unsanitary and unsanitized picture of the Nativity, does it change our attitude toward Jesus, the Incarnate Lord, come to live with us?
Does it change our attitude toward homeless, rejected, vulnerable, hungry children being born every day?
Does it change our attitude toward our own hearts?