Contrary to the lyrics of a popular Christmas hymn, it was probably not a silent night. As Joseph and Mary walked into the stable, they found themselves surrounded by various loud and dirty animals, each clamoring for food and space in the dingy shelter. The young couple may have wondered why Mary had to give birth in such an unrefined place. Only nine months earlier, they had been visited by an angel who foretold the coming of the long-promised Messiah through Mary’s virgin womb. As Joseph and Mary had come to realize, those angels had not included information about just where this world-changing birth would occur.
Now they knew. But as the new parents laid their precious child in that manger, they probably scarcely knew how symbolic such an act would be. Yes, the Creator of the entire universe — the Master Architect of everything in existence — was now resting in a rough-hewn wooden trough located in a crudely-built animal barn. As the newborn Jesus gasped his first breath in that stable, God knew that His plan for our redemption would be fully accomplished with Jesus’ last dying gasp on the cross.
And because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, God has given us a magnificent promise that Issac Watts articulated so beautifully in the hymn that has become a Christmas favorite:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
As we see in the lyrics of Watts’ song, Christmas is not just about celebrating the birth of Jesus, but should also be a recognition that his birth inaugurated God’s gracious plan for the salvation of His people. The fact that Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, a name meaning “house of bread,” is an exquisite facet of that gracious plan: The Messiah was born in the House of Bread in order to become the Bread of Life for the House of God.
That’s something worth celebrating all year long.