A Christmas visit

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Visits are a big part of the Christmas season. Whether it’s family coming to see us, or our going to see family, friends dropping by, holiday parties, Christmas caroling, or community events like the Christmas Stroll, a big part of Christmas is getting out and being with people. Visits have always been a part of Christmas. In fact Christmas itself is the story of a visit thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away. It’s a good story, and Luke tells it well in his gospel, but the stark realities of that visit are often lost on our busy, modern, well-kept ears.

According to tradition the visit happened in Bethlehem, a small insignificant village in the backwater region of Palestine, at the edges of the first century Roman Empire. And the visit happened in a barn. Now of course there are all kinds of barns, and some are cleaner and more comfortable than others to be sure, but a barn is hardly a place most of us would think of to receive visitors.

They’re all at least a little bit smelly, and dirty. Animals live there, and for the most part they’re not potty trained, and they have no sense of etiquette. Some scholars describe Jesus’ birthplace as a stable, but that’s hardly more attractive. In any case, the barn or stable had a manger where Mary placed the newborn Jesus. A manger is a long open box or trough where horses or cattle feed, and slobber. And there were likely animals there in the barn as well, un-groomed and unwashed.

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All around there was the smell of hay, mingled with the smell of unwashed shepherds who just happened to show up spouting off something about a choir of angels. Whatever that first Christmas actually looked like, it must have been a far cry from the images of pristine beauty shown in our Christmas cards today.

The story of Christmas tells the incredible story of the visit of God to earth in the person of the newborn baby Jesus. It was a humble visit. A newborn baby only weighs a few pounds, is very small, can’t talk, arrives totally naked, and is totally dependent on others for survival. The miracle of Christmas asserts not only that God exists, but also that God actually visited our world and lived among us.

If that is how God works, and how God chose to visit earth that first Christmas, then I guess it’s likely that when God shows up in our lives today, he’ll pretty much show up anywhere and at any time, and often in ways we’d never expect. So we’d better keep our eyes open.

Or, said another way, no matter how far you may think you are from God’s presence and comfort, you may not be nearly as far as you think. If God actually visited earth as he did that first Christmas, God can show up anywhere.

Sometimes God may seem far away, but God is really “Emmanuel,” a word for God that literally means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And “God with us” is both the miracle and the promise of Christmas.

~ Dent Davis