But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Hebrews 2:9 NIV
We are familiar with nativity sets depicting Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, and baby Jesus. Often animals are included – camels, sheep, donkeys. The Bible does not mention any animals but since Jesus was placed in a manger perhaps animals were there. There may have even been the kind we don’t usually think of – roaches, ants, flies and maybe even some mosquitoes. Spiders most likely were nearby and perhaps fleas, mice and rats. If any animals were there, then vermin were probably in the mix.
Since Joseph and Mary had traveled for many days, they had not recently bathed and their clothing was probably dirty and smelly as would be the places where animals were lodged. In short, Jesus was born in a dirty, stinky, vermin-infested place. We don’t like to think of such, but we should not be surprised. Jesus became human. Becoming human meant he came into a mixed-up, dirty, filthy, sinful world. Of course, we don’t want to dwell on the sordid so we draw Christmas card nativity scenes of beauty where all is clean and neat.
In Philippians 4:8 Paul tells us to dwell on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. So of course, we don’t want to dwell on the ugly. When we visit with friends we certainly don’t want to converse totally about sin! But we should never forget it. We should consider sin and its consequences.
Joseph and Mary were certainly aware of the physical circumstances in which they found themselves. They knew the oppressive political situation of Palestine. But they also saw the beauty of the birth of Jesus, their firstborn child, and were overjoyed. The creator and sovereign Lord of the universe lowered himself into foul-smelling squalor and filth in a sin-scarred world and became a helpless baby. Why? Because he loves us with an infinite, unfathomable love.
Dear Father, thank you for coming to us, for loving us so much. Amen.