The stable matters
Christmas? Love it or hate it we cannot avoid it. It is the largest grossing global festival of the year and, especially if you have children, can seem all-encompassing.
What is your Christmas about? How are you making sure your priorities are not overwhelmed by everyone else’s – the shop-keepers’ especially? How are you pressing the pause button for you and your children so that something stuns us (not simply numbs us) at Christmas? Can you name a goal you have for Christmas? Have you a plan to make it happen?
This year I am stunned by the stable! Does that sound odd? ‘Had he never realised Jesus was born in a stable before?’ you snicker. ‘Not much of a pastor if he missed that!’
But it is a shock! I’m thinking about how to help our children be surprised by it too.
There is a big difference between a palace and a stable. A palace has restricted access, high fences and armed guards. You get in my invitation only, if you are lucky or rich or famous. And once in just a brief appointment. Hardly anyone gets in to see a baby in a palace. Have you met Prince George?
A stable! Anyone gets in there. It’s a farm yard. Cows, donkeys, shepherds, wise-men – anyone and everyone can come and pay their respects to a baby in a stable.
The stable is a shock. A shock because if there ever was a king; someone who should be born in a palace, its Jesus.
His names give it away.
Jesus means ‘God’s Saviour’. Its Hebrew version is Joshua (same name, different language). Jesus, meaning ‘God’s Saviour’ is named after Joshua one of the greatest military leaders ever seen.
Emmanuel means ‘God with us’. That’s some laden expectation by his parents! ‘What a bundle of joy you have there – what’s his name?’ asks the kind passer-by. ‘It’s God’ you say! A little arrogant perhaps. Somewhat unfair on the poor baby. Crippling expectations. No wonder in Jesus’ day no one named their child ‘Emmanuel’. In Islamic culture it would be like naming you child ‘Allah’. Unheard of.
Christ (or Messiah – same word, different language) is a title, like ‘sir’ or ‘doctor’ but far more weighty. It means ‘anointed’ or ‘unique’ one and was reserved for only the crème-de-la-crème. Like someone being canonised as a saint, or knighted as a sir. Rare, unique, special.
History shows those names were not wrongly attributed. We decided to re-start the calendar to mark his birth as his wake in history was so great. Even our greatest only get a day set aside to remember them – Jesus got the calendar!
Napoleon sees it: “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”
Contemporary historian James C. Hefley affirms it “…all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.”
The stable matters
‘God’s Saviour’; ‘God with us’; the ‘unique one’; ‘that One Solitary Life’ – born not in a palace (where no-one would get to pay their respects) but in a stable (where everyone and anyone can search him out or stumble upon him). The stable matters.
Somehow this year I want to press pause on the stable. To say what does this mean? To really see it. From the moment Jesus enters the world it was orchestrated we would realise everyone and anyone, and you too, are welcome and expected to pay your tributes.
He wasn’t born in a palace, he was born in a stable. Have you consider what that means for you?