My mom’s church always puts on a petting zoo on Christmas Eve for children to come and experience what the manger scene might really have been like. This year, they outdid themselves. The place was packed with sheep, alpacas, rabbits, a turtle, chickens, a pony, puppies, piglets, and a baby camel.
JP was a bit overwhelmed by all the animals and all the children, but the other two loved it and stayed to pet as many different animals as they could. However, when it was time for us to go out, that’s when we discovered the animal poop clinging to us in several different places. We found it on the bottoms of our shoes, IN our shoes (in the case of Little E), on our laps (that was me, and also Greg after he held JP), and even on our backsides (Mr. C this time). We may have washed our hands with the antibacterial soap they had out for us, but it didn’t take away the feeling of poop clinging to us everywhere. I know some of you farm people are probably rolling your eyes at this city girl right now, but I can’t help it–I’m used to feeling pretty clean most of the time. The dirtiest I get is from my sweat when I go for a run (which can be pretty nasty, I must say).
Then I remembered that Jesus was born in a stable, in conditions much like what I experienced at that petting zoo, except worse, because there wasn’t any antibacterial soap awaiting Him. He was bedded down in straw that may have fallen out of some of the animals’ mouths as they messily munched their meals (thought you might have wanted a little alliteration there).
God could have picked anywhere for His Son to be born, but He picked a filthy stable. He didn’t have to do that to atone for our sins. Jesus put Himself right down in the muck with us. He let our filth cling to Him. Why? Just for redemption? That alone was enough to show His love for us–He died for us, after all. But He went further. He didn’t just die for us. He lived for 30 some years not just in the literal filth of our world but in amongst the spiritual filth.
He did it to show He understands. He did it to come low enough to have a relationship with us.
And He still does it every day! He knows about my black mire sin, the kind I want no one to see. He sees it and still wants to be close to me. He knows I still have the stains from wallowing in my mud earlier in the day, and He knows I will do it again tomorrow or the next day, but He still holds me close right now.
This is why Jesus was born in that stable. No census takers or innkeepers forced Joseph and Mary to that spot. God chose it to show us that from the beginning, although Jesus deserves all glory and honor, as evidenced by the angels and later by the wise men, He is still willing to give it all up in order to have a true, close relationship with filthy human beings. We are, after all, made from the dust. He got His hands dirty when He made us from the clay in the first place, and He’s still willing to do the same.