And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger;
We’re here tonight to celebrate the birth of a baby boy, a little human baby with five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, two eyes, a nose and a mouth. A baby just like any other human baby. But this baby’s birth is being celebrated by more than a billion people around the world. And this baby’s birth has been celebrated for centuries. Is there any other person that has ever lived whose birth has been celebrated by so many people for such an incredibly long time? This alone should tell us that this baby was no ordinary baby.
The baby whose birth we celebrate wasn’t born to important people. He wasn’t the child of a prince or any other important person. He was the child of a poor Jewish couple. Mary and Joseph weren’t known by anyone outside their friends and family. But the birth of Jesus was greeted with what may be the greatest celebration that has ever been seen on earth. The birth of Jesus was announced to shepherds watching their flocks at night by an angel who told them “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” And then the angel was joined by an uncountable multitude of angels all singing praises to God “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men!”
That was how our Christmas celebration began. There were no packed shopping malls or Christmas trees. There were no lights strung upon houses or wrapping paper strewn on the floor. FedEx wasn’t trucking packages all around the country. There was only one gift given, and it was the greatest gift ever. It’s the gift of light and life. It’s a gift that continues to be given throughout the ages. It’s the gift from God to all people of all times and places. The gift was God Himself as a tiny little helpless baby.
Perhaps you remember the story from several years ago of the CEO of a global international company who was concerned about his company’s performance. He had noticed that his company was declining, and his employees were distressed. He got his board of directors together to figure out how to solve the problem. But they couldn’t think of anything that hadn’t already been tried and failed. He took it upon himself to find the solution to the problems. And so, he left the day-to-day operations of the company in the hands of the board of directors, and he went off to a small poor country where his company was having a lot of problems. He didn’t go as the CEO with an entourage of VIPs wearing expensive suits. He went as a regular person, just an average Joe who needed a paycheck, and applied for a job at one of the company’s stores. He was hired to clean the toilets and clean up the messes left by the customers. He got down into the dirt at a store that belonged to him.
During his time in this dirty job, he learned about the people that worked for him. He learned about what their concerns were and their dreams. He was able to experience life as a regular employee instead of the CEO. After some time, he returned to his job as CEO with a much better appreciation of the working conditions in his company and how he could make things better for everyone and improve the company’s performance as well.
Do you remember this story? Of course, you don’t. It never happen. No self-respecting CEO who wants to keep his high-paying high-profile job would ever go off to work at a dirty low-paying job for the sake of his employees. He had to claw his way to the top, there’s no way he’d voluntarily climb back down the ladder.
But that’s what the birth of Jesus is all about. God, the ruler of all of the creation which He made, climbed down the ladder to become a regular Joe, a human being just like you and me. He didn’t come in the power and the glory that’s rightfully His, but He put all His honor and majesty aside for a time. He didn’t come in judgment and wrath, but to bring peace and goodwill to those who would believe. His birth was announced by a multitude of angels to a group of dirty shepherds, leaders of sheep, not to the great powerful leaders of the day. The King of Creation wasn’t born in a palace as the child of rulers, clothed with the finest linens but born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
Picture the scene of that first Christmas. Joseph and Mary had traveled for several days from Nazareth to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, near Jerusalem. Tired and hungry, with Mary nearly ready to give birth, they look for a place to stay. There were no Holiday Inns at every off-ramp, so they’d have looked for a house where someone would have a spare room. But none could be found. The only available place where they could rest and find shelter was a stable, probably a small cave cut from the rock, which housed the animals of other travelers and the home-owner.
Most of us are familiar with barns that house cows, horses, or pigs. Straw is scattered around, the animals smell, it’s dirty. It’s not the kind of place where any woman would want to have her first-born child. Today babies are born in hospitals that are thoroughly clean and free of any germs. But this stable is the place that God chose for Himself to be born as a human baby.
And the baby Jesus was born there in Bethlehem, in a dirty stable. The only place for Him to lay was in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. I only hope that Joseph had enough sense to place some clean straw in the manger before putting the newborn baby Jesus into it. But here’s God in a barn, lying in a manger, surrounded by animals and their manure, with all the dirt and the aromatic smells. This stable is no place for God, yet here He is.
The only visitors He gets were the shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement. They brought no gifts with them, unless you count the smell of sheep to add to the smells of the stable. But they were curious, curious about this baby whose birth brought the celebration of the heavens. What did they see but what seemed to be a normal baby, just as any other they had ever seen? But despite the appearances of normalcy, they believed that this was no ordinary baby because of what the angels had told them, and they went and told everyone about the greatness of God in giving to all the world a Savior, Christ the Lord. The Lord Jesus the Christ, born in a stinky stable and laid in a feeding trough. This wasn’t how anyone could ever imagine that God Almighty would make Himself known to His creatures, and yet this is how He chose to come to us.
In the baby Jesus, God became human and gave up His glorious powers so that you and I could be restored to Him. He came to us in humility, as a human being, because as God with all power and authority, He didn’t need to exalt Himself before us. He didn’t have to grasp and struggle to attain the glory that was already His. We see the truth about God in the baby Jesus. He loves us so much that He would put aside all His glory in order to allow us to share in His glory. Which is something that no CEO, no president, no king would ever do, but God does this for us. They’re not there to serve those under them, but to be served. God in Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served.
Jesus the Christ was born in dirt and lived His life surrounded by dirt. He walked the dusty roads of Jerusalem. He slept on the dirt. And He lived among the dirty sinful lives of the people. Jesus had first-hand experience with their dirty messed up lives. He knew the illnesses and diseases that many suffered from, and He healed many. He was rejected by the religious leaders of His day, but He wasn’t turned from His mission. Jesus knew the sins of people, but He didn’t condemn the woman at the well for her immoral life, instead He offered her compassion and a changed life. Jesus’ rightful place is in the glories of Heaven, but He came to us to deal with our dirt.
None of us were born in the dirt of a stable, but we all have dirt in our lives. We all are broken in some way by the trials of life. We all have tasted the pain of a strained relationship in our family. Most of us have been rejected by others at some time in our life. We all have had others do wrong against us and we’ve done wrong against others. It’s been said that the only two things that you can count on in life are death and taxes. But we also can count on sin. Others sin against us and you and I sin against others. But each and every sin is also an offense against God. And it’s sin that is the dirt that Jesus came to wash away from us. He constantly suffered the sin of others so He knows in human experience what sin can do in our life. And He came to break the power of sin over us. Jesus had to come into the dirt to remove the dirt from us.
And Jesus removed the stain of the dirt of sin by suffering and dying on the cross to pay the blood sacrifice that was necessary to break the power of sin and death over us. Through His resurrection, He offers us His forgiveness that we receive through faith in Him. And it’s that forgiveness that washes away the dirt of sin and allows us to be with Him for all eternity. While we remain in this life, we will still suffer because of sin but we have the certainty of the hope of a life without this dirt, this sin, this brokenness when we are with Him.
Christ can remove the pain of sin in your life. He can wash away the dirt that stains your soul. Believe in His power and authority and be cleansed. Merry Christmas