I’ve never thought about the nativity in human terms before. I mean, of course, I believe in the nativity as a human event in human history. But I’ve always set my focus on the glory of it all. The spirituality of it. The eternal significance. But I often have overlooked the humanity of the moment. Covered up the dirty details. Because clean makes me feel adequate. Safe. Rescued. Isn’t that what all the cards and children’s Bibles show us?
But the manger confronts me. Looking at it I see that Jesus didn’t hide from humanity. He willing came and knew that there would be no crib for His bed. No comfort for His parents. And He didn’t clean it up with angelic hosts first. He was placed in a real, wooden manger. Clean didn’t qualify His identity.
Joseph was a carpenter. Wood was his thing. Don’t you think that stung him as a father? To see his wife give birth to this glory-child and place him in something far below what he could have, would have built him. If only their circumstances been under their control. How humbling. That’s humanity.
Mary was a virgin. Did she fumble at breastfeeding? The embarrassment of nursing in an animal stall. Did she wish for her mother to be near? How hormonal. Human.
Imagine the two new parents, placing their newborn baby into the only thing off the ground. And it was dirty. The manger confronted them, and their hearts could have been screaming, you’re failures! How could you knowingly place the Son of God in such a filthy bed. How their humanity must have felt crushing.
But isn’t that just like the mercy of a loving God? To orchestrate all things in humanity to cause us to be brought so low that He may be lifted high. He brings us to our knees in order to graciously remove the broken burdens of our humanity. He doesn’t rub our face in our humanity. He uses it to contrast His purpose and His beauty.
The shepherds came running to find the newborn King. The angels told them of a real location, a real baby, and a real sign: wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Oh how their presence would have brought real tangible comfort to the new parents. We were told to find a baby in a manger! How humbling, but now how comforting. Everything was for a purpose. No detail was insignificant no matter how human.
Dirty manger. Real humanity. Personal pain and feelings of failure. It all is worked together for grace to be set in motion. The moment when this hurts too much meets God I need you…the next breath is proof that goodness is real. That grace is moving. The manger confronts me and points at the humanity of my heart. It draws my deepest needs to the surface. And all my physical senses are stimulated. I hear the crying. I see the frailty. I touch the wounds. I smell the stall. I taste my own tears. And I know that this is all to make my salvation real, not only in a spiritual sense, but in a human sense.
In a real human way, the tiny, frail, newborn King holds my heart. My manger of a heart. With all it’s I can’t do this, I’m not good enough, it isn’t what I wanted to provide for you burdens. He holds it. He comes down to it.
And angels sing, Peace. God’s favor is with you.