Merry Christmas, ya'll! I wrote this last year and wanted to share it here today. I hope each of you have a blessed holiday season!
Every Christmas the little nativity set takes center stage. Modest scenes set up on lawns, acted out by real people at churches, and pictured endlessly on Christmas greeting cards. But, despite all the sermons and songs, stories and scenes, do we really understand what was going on? Have we romanticized the reality out of it?
This season my four year old is really processing not just the facts of Jesus birth, but trying to understand it. I try to dig through the poetry and folklore the story has picked up to present to her a real picture she can grasp onto. “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” is obviously not true. Babies cry. She needs to know that. I’d flattered myself that my husband and I were doing a good job leveling with her, until on the way home from church yesterday she said, “I wish I was born in a stable.”
I can’t deny her reasoning. Doesn’t it look cozy? Don’t our suburban kids delight in interacting with goats, sheep and donkeys at petting farms we happily pay admission fees to enter? In her eyes, it seems like a lovely, fun place to be stuck. Wanting to explain that they didn’t want to be there, that it was an outbuilding not really meant for human habitation, we pulled up to our house. And then it struck me, in a way that had never entered my mind before. Jesus was born in a garage. The place where the means of transportation we call donkey’s were stored. Where the food (pigs, goats) stayed until you brought it to the house. Our garage’s smell of gasoline fumes, and their stables smelled of, well, more natural stinky things. There is no climate control, no attempt at decoration. The hard cold of our cement is mirrored in the smelly, scratchy hay lining theirs.
What mother would want to have her baby in a garage? Better than outside in the street maybe. And that’s exactly the choice Mary had to make. And suddenly, to my modern, far from Bethlehem sensibilities, the desperateness they faced almost brought tears to my eyes. “No, the hotel is full. They all are. No pillow tops, clean sheets or serene landscapes on the walls available. No, you can’t even stay here in the lobby. But, hey, if you want a little bit of privacy you could have the garage. Your wife looks like she’s in a lot of pain. Go ahead.”
And so the little baby, Jesus, King of Kings and Light of the World, was born in the garage.