Tag Archives: baby jesus

why was Jesus born into SUCH difficult circumstances (or when we’ve become too used to the Christmas story)?

i grew up in the church and have heard the Christmas story countless times.  i’ve seen plays and movies of it, heard retellings of it, read it, studied it, meditated on it.  as with many things we’re repeatedly exposed to, Jesus of the Christmas story can easily become someone we can feel familiar with and touch over without him getting to our heart.  on top of this, with the commercialization of Christmas there has been a sanitizing of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth that can be easy to miss.

given that, as the gospel accounts make clear, Jesus was the God of the universe in human flesh, here are just some of the elements in the accounts of the arrival of Jesus into our world that seem peculiar at best and, at times, downright troubling:

1. the era of his birth – Jesus is estimated to have been born around 6 to 4 AD.

why was he born in such a “backwards” time?  why not when there would be better medical innovation and technology for health care and life expectancy?  why not when there would be the internet to make wider announcement of his arrival?  why not a time when Israel was in a better place politically, not under roman control and occupation?

2. the mother he was born to – Jesus was born to a poor dark-skinned palestinian-jewish teenage girl.

why wasn’t Jesus born to a mom with more experience, education, credentials, and financial/social status?

3. the father that would raise him: Jesus’ earthly father was not his biological father and was a poor worker in construction.

especially, if men at this time were the main financial breadwinners of the home, why was Jesus born into such a poor family? why into a home where the family business was manual labor (maybe in our modern times carpenters make more money but we know the family was most likely poor because when these young parents take Jesus to the temple all they could offer were pigeons for sacrifice, an offering reserved for those who were too poor to offer a lamb. we also know that by the time of Jesus’ death his father has most likely already passed away as the care of his mother mary was given to the apostle john.  if this was the case, that means joseph had probably already passed by the age of 50…this was not an easy life.).

4. the timing of his birth: Jesus was conceived by Mary BEFORE she was married to the person she was engaged to…and impregnated by a different Father.

yes, the virgin birth was what was supposed to happen according to the prophecy but why couldn’t God have sent an angel to Joseph to explain the circumstance while they were getting married and Jesus have been conceived AFTER they were married? at the very least, if the timing of the virgin birth were pushed back a little later this could have saved all of them them A LOT of shame of such scandalous talk and rumors, especially in such traditional times and a deeply religious culture.  what would it have been like for mary whose child’s origins were continually second-guessed and her explanation sounded incredulous and awfully self-congratulating?  what would it have been like for joseph to see his firstborn son and raise him knowing that he wasn’t the true father?  what would it have been like for Jesus to grow up being ridiculed as a bastard child?

5. the place he was born – he was born in a food trough in a stable that was most likely a cave.

why was Jesus, literally, born in such a disgusting place?  ok, so his parents couldn’t afford better accommodations on their trip to Bethlehem, but seriously, why wasn’t the savior of the world born where humans lived instead of being born where animals lived?

6. the announcement of his birth to shepherds – shepherds worked with animals so they were unclean and unable to participate in the religious activities of the temple.

out of the all the groups of people the “heavenly host” of angels could have arrived to why did they arrive to uncouth, stinky, and solitary shepherds?  why make a religious announcement to religiously unclean folks?  unclean folks who worked with animals and not just any animals but probably some of the stupidest and most easily frightened animals?

the circumstance of his most critical early years – king herod, in his paranoia of rumors of another king being born, ordered the massacre of all jewish babies to the age of two, forcing Jesus family to flee to egypt then back to nazareth after the king had died.

why was Jesus born during the reign of such a notoriously jealous and violent king?  couldn’t Jesus birth been delayed until king herod died?  why were he and his parents forced to become refugees to another country?  then move back into a no good ghetto like nazareth to be raised?  why all this transition in the most critical years of a child’s development?

 

why was Jesus born into such difficult life circumstances?  certainly not circumstances befitting any king of this world.  i have some thoughts and potential answers to these questions for which there isn’t enough time.  however, at least one things has become clear to me – Jesus is not afraid to identify with and live in our suffering.  the God of the universe came into our most scandalous, disgusting, and unpresentable places.  he chose to be raised and be identified with the most marginalized of people.  when we are broken by the suffering in our world and in our very lives, let the nature of his arrival be a light of hope to us.  could it be that the manner of his arrival was this intentional in order to know our suffering?

this is our Jesus.  this is our God who is with us.

jesus-poverty

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day 23: child king

Psalm 72:10-15; Matthew 2:1-11

10 “May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! 12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. 15 Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him!  May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!” – Psalm 72:10-15

1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

 6 “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” – Matthew 2:1-12

***

why is this king worthy of worship? 

– He is a helper of the needy, He is compassionate (Psalm 72:12-13)

– He is a ruler with eternal origins, He is a ruler that will shepherd His people…He will care for them with the tenderness and thoughtfulness of a shepherd who lives with the sheep. (Micah 5:2, Ezekiel 34)

who actually worships Him?

not who you’d expect.

– the people of israel, the very insiders of the culture, knew about this king.  the “religious” people knew this…even pointing to the very prophetic scriptures that were theirs from God.  they even knew where the messiah was.  yet, what was their reaction?  they stayed right where they were.  they may have given lip service that they intend to worship (Matthew 2:8) but they did not go to worship Him.  in fact, they were “troubled” by Him.   the king, and later the religious rulers, were plotting to kill Him.  this child, this king of compassion, posed a huge threat.

– the wise men of the east, outsiders of the culture, learned about this king too.  not only were they foreigners…they were pagans…unfamiliar with the “right” religious practices.  they had to resort to astrology, which was forbidden in the scriptures, because they didn’t have the same access to the prophesies.  this king wasn’t even the king of the land they had come from.  yet, what was their reaction?  they gave true worship.  their worship was not just lip service.  it cost them a lot to make the long perilous journey…but they are the ones who “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” when they found Him.  they laid themselves on the ground in recognition of the greatness of this child.  in fact, they seemed to understand the significance of this child king better than His own people.  their gifts pointed out that He is a king (precious gold for royalty), He is a priest (frankincense used as incense in temple worship), and that He would sacrifice his life (myrrh used to embalm dead bodies).  (Matthew 2:11, more background into the significance of these three gifts)

so what is our response to this child king?  does His existence, His agenda (to help those in need), His reign threaten us?  would we rather have this season, our lives, be about what’s comfortable for us now?  or will we learn from the wise outsiders that sought Him out, and joyfully lay down our lives in worship?

thank you Lord that you reveal yourself to those who really seek.