A few years ago I heard that the International Space Station could be seen streaking through the night sky above North America. So, I marked the dates when this was supposed to happen and I made a point to remember the time and which direction in the sky it was supposed to appear. Thinking that this would be an extraordinary event I allowed the kids to stay up past their bedtime and we all went outside just a few minutes before the Space Station would appear. What happened next frustrated and confused me. While I was gazing into the night sky the Space Station finally appeared and I stared in awe of this extraordinary sight…meanwhile my kids, the same ones that I allowed to stay up late so they wouldn’t miss this awesome experience, were watching the neighbor’s cat run down the street…just like it does every single day. My kids were so focused on the ordinary that they missed the extraordinary.
Many times our people can be guilty of the same thing, especially concerning Christmas, and, in particular, the Christmas story of Luke 2. Take, for instance, the ordinary night our extraordinary Savior was born. Our folks will often focus on things like swaddling clothes, or the fact that there was no room in the inn, both of these things were very ordinary in the culture, and at the time Jesus was born. Swaddling clothes were used by nearly all women as they wrapped their babies like mummies in order to straighten the limbs of the new-born infant from the fetal position. Jesus, being wrapped in swaddling clothes, was no different than most babies born at that time. The fact that there was no room in the inn was pretty ordinary as well. Living in Columbus, I know how difficult it is to get a hotel room in the area when Ohio State has a home game against a big rival. Rooms are hard to come by when many people converge on the same place at the same time. Then there is the innkeeper… don’t get me started on the innkeeper! This poor guy is not even mentioned in Scripture, yet he has been vilified by believers for centuries for “not having room for Jesus”, or for “not giving up his own room for Jesus”.
The historical narrative of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2 is just that, it is a historical account filled with historical facts that add details to the story, but have very little spiritual consequence. The problem comes when our people loose sight of the extraordinary birth of a Savior-King, because of the ordinary details contained in the story. Luke 2 tells us of the exclusivity of Christ, as He was Mary’s firstborn son. The pre-existent Christ entered the world as a human, virgin-born as no man had never been born, with both legal and familial rights to the throne of David. Luke 2 also tells us about the humility of Christ, but not because a rough-cut feeding trough was His first bed!
The fact that the very God of Creation became a man shows us the humility of our Savior. This was the proof Paul offered in Philippians 2:6-8 when he, speaking of Christ wrote: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” What will show our people the true humility of Christ? Is it really that special that He was laid in a manger, or is it even more incredible that Jesus veiled His own glory, became a servant, and lived as one of us, so that He could eventually die for all of us according to the will of the Father? The temptation for most believers over the next month will be the same temptation my kids had when they watched the ordinary cat instead of focusing on the extraordinary event happening in the sky above them. They will be tempted to focus on the songs, and the schedule, and the gifts, and even the ordinary, every-day events surrounding the birth of Christ. But we need to be reminded that God gave His extraordinary gift, to a bunch of ordinary people, on an ordinary night, in ordinary circumstances. And our prayer is that we will not miss the extraordinary for the ordinary.