“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
I doubt there are very many people who have spent significant time in the church who have not heard a message or some other teaching equating our human lives with the inn with no vacancies told in the Advent story. The question is always are we more like the inn which has no room for the Savior or like one which has room and which welcomes Him? It certainly captured my attention the first time I heard a message like this. But to be honest, I’ve heard it so often I think it needs some updating.
I can’t recall ever hearing anyone preach or teach about the stable in which the manger (crib) was placed. Lest there be any confusion, it was an animal stall–a place to put animals during cold or wet nights. I seriously doubt that it looked like some of the traditional pictures we’ve all seen where the baby Jesus is laying in the crib with Mary and Joseph kneeling over Him, all with halos over their heads while the cattle and sheep looked on Him in wonderment. They may have…but I betcha it smelled in there. It was an animal stall, for crying out loud! It smelled like animals and whatever animals produce.
Think of the last time you rode with the windows down near a farm in the late spring or summer. You know what I’m talking about? I had an uncle and aunt and cousins who owned a small farm that had animals. I used to spend time with them during the summer in my early teen years. I guarantee you the aroma was farm like. The one thing we can be sure of is that the manger scene in the Advent story wasn’t a pig pen, like my father used to accuse my room of looking like, it being Bethlehem in the heart of Judea.
GOD the Father chose to allow His Son, the One destined to become the King of Kings, to be born in a smelly animal stall. There was no pretense, nothing showy, no “Hey, look at me!” It was the polar opposite; the King born in total humility and near complete anonymity. Oh, the things GOD does for us because He loves us!
How different was that stall, with all it contained, all that it might represent, than the condition of your heart or my heart, with all they contained and, perhaps, even now contain? The Prophet Jeremiah (17:9) was brutally critical of the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Peter, Paul, and John in their letters to the New Testament churches were explicit about what was in the hearts Jesus sought to enter. Are they any more a fit place for Jesus than that stall? Is the aroma much more fragrant than Mary and Joseph encountered the night of her labor?
It is all because of GOD’s love and grace that there is a cure, found only in the Son born that night and alive today. “It is by grace that we are [or can be] saved through faith—it is the gift of GOD” (Eph. 2:8). Jesus is pleased to come into our crowded and maybe foul smelling hearts to do what only He can do. I heard someone say yesterday, “The birthday is His but the gift is for us. Let’s together receive the gift anew, or perhaps for the first time. Come Lord Jesus, come to cleanse, to make new and to renew.
His name is called Emmanuel.
God with us, revealed in us
His name is called Emmanuel.*
* Emmanuel. © C.A. Music, 1976 (Administered by Music Services, Inc.)
© Byron L. Hannon, 2019. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.