When I was growing up we "down to the country" every other week. For us, "down to the country" meant that we packed into our Ford, went east of Charlotte to Union County where my uncle Barron, Grandma Greene and many cousins lived on their farm. There were pastures, fields, lakes, woods, Tarzan movies on TV and (one of my favorites) barns. The barns had all sorts of cool tools, tractors and mangers full of hay for the animals. The smells were earthy and stinky and we loved all the games played as we visited with family.
Most of us have grown up with the image of Jesus being born in a barn. Historically, though, it seems most likely that Jesus was born in the part of a stone house where the family's animals were brought in for the night. It could have been a one room house with a lowered section reserved for cows, donkeys or other livestock. It most certainly would have shared the smells I experienced growing up with my cousins in Union county. The grotto, house or stable (whatever floats your boat) would have been a very common place for peasant families.
Each year I renew my wondering about the "why" of a Holy God coming to this world as a peasant child in a manger. I have three theories about this that I hope we can "chew" on (like those Union County cows chewing their cud).
First, God's power, might and authority cannot come by human means. God doesn't need titles, degrees, stocks, bonds, royal pedigree or any of our human ways of deciding who has more power or clout. Jesus has been given "all authority" by God the Father. That trumps (no pun intended) any of our systems of establishing pecking order.
Second, God has a history of taking common things and making them extraordinary. Jesus makes plain water into the very best wine. God makes the "runt" of the lot the greatest king in the history of Israel. God takes 300 soldiers and defeats a great army. God takes a simple one room house with a built in stable and makes it the birthplace of the King of Kings. Maybe THAT God can do something with you and I!
Finally ... God makes Himself totally accessible. We talk of fairness, equality and a "level playing field." That doesn't exist in our natural human world. But it DOES exist in the symbol and reality of the manger. Even the ne'er-do-well shepherds, who were looked down upon by most everyone, ran to see a royal baby who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Even they could approach that place. For Jesus is accessible to all.
Come to the manger this week. Leave your pride and prominence outside for when we come to the manger we come into the glory of a God who doesn't need our power, doesn't need our flashiness and doesn't need our social divisions. In spite of our stinkiness, our filth and our unworthiness He "became human and made His home among us!" Amazing love! Randy