Jesus was born in a stable. Very early tradition suggests it was probably a cave. Recent theories suggest it could have been the lower level of a stone house, windowless, where animals were kept. Either way, it didn’t resemble the nativity scene on the mantle.
Into this Jesus came. To two filthy and exhausted travelers in a strange town, alone. Blinking against the sharp smell of animal urine, trying to find a spot in the darkness and excrement. Perhaps drinking from a trough of water dirtied by animals. This is where Mary labored and strained, where at last her son slid into the carpenter’s rough hands. Did Joseph’s hands shake as he tried to tie the cord? Was Mary, in her exhaustion, able to provide enough sustenance to still her baby’s weak cries?
Did they question God in their need? In a time of high infant mortality, Joseph carried the fearful weight of keeping the Messiah alive. What if he failed? Was God disappointed in him for not being able to provide more than this crude shelter?
And yet, the angels sang.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.'” ( Matthew 1:23)
This is how Jesus comes to us. He comes in our weakness, our exhaustion and our fear. He comes in our darkness, our desperation, and our hopelessness. He comes to us despised, persecuted, and cast aside. He comes in our mess and our reality. He comes to us so that we might come to Him.
And the angels still sing when we welcome Him.