He was different all right—that Baby lying contentedly in the manger–this special son. His parents knew it—but then, doesn’t every set of parents think their child is something special? If you’ve ever listened to a group of new parents (or grandparents) sharing about their baby’s latest development or achievement, you would certainly get the impression that another Superboy and Supergirl had just been born! Most of you have bragged on your kids, your grandkids, your great-grands or your nieces and nephews. Right? I mean, after all—if they’re related to us they MUST be pretty special!
A Special Journey
But there was definitely something different about the Boy child born to Joseph the carpenter and his young wife, Mary! Oh, I’m, sure He was born in the usual manner—after all, babies are babies. I imagine His mother had her share of morning sickness during her first trimester. She probably had the same backache many of you had when you were pregnant with your children. Joseph, no doubt, watched his young bride’s expanding waistline with a certain measure of wonder and, like Mary, thrilled to feel the Baby’s periodic kicking and moving.
It was not Mary’s idea to give birth in a stable. Rome had demanded every citizen under its tyrannical rule be registered for taxes in their ancestral home. The militaristic pagan government did not care that Mary was soon to have a child. Rich and poor, old and young, healthy and invalid, barren and pregnant alike had to make the long and treacherous journey to the city of their origin.
Bethlehem was crawling with people. It was the childhood city of King David and thus, the central city for his descendants. There were many who traced their lineage to the popular King through his son Solomon and grandson, Rehoboam. The couple traveling from the northern province had not reached the village in time to find proper lodging. Mary’s delicate condition did not allow them to hurry over the rough countryside.
A Special Delivery
By the time they arrived, all the spare rooms were filled. Families had been forced to set up in the streets and alleys. Joseph, desperate to find adequate lodging for his wife, accepted the offer of a stable with some reluctance. It wasn’t what he had hoped for, but it was better than the street. I suspect Joseph had barely unloaded their meager belongings when Mary went into labor. The long, rough ride and the change in environment probably contributed to a heightened emotional state that triggered the first contraction.
Scripture does not indicate if Joseph was able to locate a midwife in this strange town. More than likely, he had to awkwardly deliver Mary’s Son by himself—aided only by the bleating of the sheep and the breathless instructions of his wife. Suddenly, though, Jesus was born—the Son they had both waited nine months to see. Born just like any one of us. He was carefully cleaned with olive oil and wrapped in bands of soft cloth. Then, He was laid in the only available bed—a feeding trough for the cattle.
Joseph must have stared in amazement at the tiny infant—his first-born Son. Cautiously, he must have touched one of the red and wrinkled fists with his own calloused finger. Mary probably carefully counted His fingers and toes—making certain the Babe was as perfectly formed as He should be. As He nursed, I imagine Mary hummed a little tune that she had learned from her mother and dreamed of what the future would hold for her baby boy.
A Special Child
He was special—the first-born Son of Joseph the carpenter. Special because He would be the one to carry on the family name. Because, in this very masculine order world of the Jews, having a son to carry on the family lineage and occupation was all important. Special because He was, after all, their first child.
But, He was special for another reason, too. Surely no baby was ever welcomed into the world as the Babe in the manger was! Before He was born, His mother had a vision from God—an angelic visitation that told her the Child she carried was actually the earthly incarnation of the Almighty. Joseph, his earthly father, had a similar visit charging him with the awesome task of raising the divine Son of God in a very human world.
His birth would be heralded by an angelic choir that appeared in the midnight sky outside Bethlehem to a group of uneducated shepherds.
These illiterates were granted the privilege of hearing the most incredible news ever to fall upon human ears. To you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
He was welcomed by a contingent of royally dressed wise men from the East who came bearing presents His poor parents had never seen—gold, myrrh and frankincense—truly gifts fit for a king. The strangers from afar told an incredible tale of following a single star that had first appeared in their homeland—many hundreds of miles away. With the clipped accents of the highly educated, these wise sages explained how they had discerned one single star from the twinkling hosts of heaven and had followed its ever-persistent leading to this stable in a little known village called Bethlehem.
A Special Son
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a very special Son—not just Mary’s first-born, but God’s ONLY born. We celebrate the birth of a Baby who was SO special that total strangers sought out His birthplace in order to worship before Him. Shepherds, rough and tugged men of the countryside, left their sheep alone in the wild, rocky hills outside of Bethlehem to come and see for themselves a Baby lying in a manger. Learned astronomers from the province of Persia left behind all they held near and dear to follow a bright star that appeared in the December sky. They came, by their own admission, seeking one who was born King of the Jews and discovered He was born to be King of us all.
Luke’s gospel tells us Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) Surely, she had much to ponder. There was the heavenly vision that she and Joseph had concerning the child that now lay sleeping the hay. And the far from usual way that the young virgin became pregnant. There was the appearance of the crude shepherds who came bearing a tale of angels and heavenly music. There was the visit by the kings from afar who presented them with costly gifts and, ignoring their royal finery, prostrated themselves in the dust and mire of the stable before the sleeping Child.
A Song. A Star. A Son.
A Simple Song—the shepherds heard it and dared to believe that God would visit His people in a way that we all could understand.
A Single Star—the wise men saw it and dared to follow it to an unknown destination, certain that they would find a king—never dreaming they would find a Savior!
A Special Son—God in the flesh. Born of a woman like any of us and yet revealed as the very embodiment of God—Emmanuel—God-in-the-flesh—God with us. The Son of God revealed to the sons of men, in order that the sons and daughters of men might become the sons and daughters of God!
Hear the SIMPLE SONG! And believe! See the SINGLE STAR! And follow! Meet the SPECIAL SON! And be forever transformed!
Come and worship———Jesus Christ the Lord!