At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. – Luke 2:1-7
I grew up in a mom and pop motel. My parents started it with 5 rooms. Then we expanded to 12, 17, 24… and on. No matter how many rooms we had, though, one thing was certain. When we could turn on the No Vacancy sign we were happy. That’s not what happened, as best we can tell, on the night Jesus was born.
The best understanding of what happened that night 2000 years ago is that the guest room of the house where Mary and Joseph spent the night was occupied. So they were allowed to stay in the area of the house where the animals were. There was no innkeeper. There was no, “No Vacancy” sign or message. There was just a place for them to stay, and for Jesus to be born. He was then laid in a manger – a feed trough – which was most likely made of stone, not wood.
Take away the common and sentimental trappings of the night and you have a baby born in less than ideal circumstances, and laid in the best place possible, all things considered. Swaddling cloths – strips of cloth which were used to keep the child warm – were not unusual.
None of these trappings would indicate who this is. None of this would point to Jesus as the Son of God who would save his people from their sins. None of this would indicate to us that Jesus is God in the flesh. None of this would indicate that his baby is “King of the Jews.”
But that’s exactly who he is. He is on a mission. He is destined to grow up, gather a following of disciples, teach, heal, perform miracles, and do good. But he is also destined to be betrayed, suffer ridicule and scourging, be convicted of blasphemy, handed over to the Roman authorities and be executed by one of the most cruel means known: crucifixion. He would rest in the tomb. He would rise from the dead. He would appear to his disciples, give them (and us) the Great Commission, and ascend to the right hand of God.
He reigns there now. Majestic in glory. Crowned in splendor, angelic worshipers attend him. Reigning on high, he is interceding for us. He reigns and rules in truth and love. He did all that to save us from our sins. He saved us from our sins because he loved us. He gave up his bed in order to redeem us. So we worship him.