The short answer is he probably wasn’t. The more important answer is that there was a reason for the humble birth of God’s son–a reason that predates time itself.
First let’s address the place of Christ’s birth. Joseph and his betrothed wife, Mary most likely walked the 100 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in a caravan of others heading to their ancestral homes in the south to register for a census decreed by Caesar Augustus. Since Jews avoided contact with Samatarians, those who lived between Nazareth and Bethlehem, they would have traveled on a route that followed the Jordan River east of Samaria. The one-to two-week, 100 mile journey, brought them to the small village six miles south of the temple in Jerusalem.
There, like most of their fellow travelers, they would have sought lodging with relatives. The Bible tells us there was no room for them in the guest room, (mistranslated “stable”) that would have been on the upper level of the house where people slept, so they likely bedded down in the general living area on the first floor. A common practice then was to bring animals inside at night to protect them from cold, thieves and other dangers. That may be why Mary, after delivering her baby, lay him in a feeding trough (manager), that then served as Jesus’ bassinet.
Of greater importance is understanding why Jesus would be born in such lowly circumstances. Jesus was with God when the universe was created. He was the instrument of creation of everything, including mankind, with whom he wanted to have a relationship, and on whom he could bestow his love and affection. But man abused the relationship and rebelled and in the process became lost to God’s companionship and his love. God never stopped loving man, and prescribed a system of sacrifice by which man could atone for his rebellion, generally known as sin. The blood of an unblemished lamb was let each year for the forgiveness of sin, but it was a temporary measure that had to be performed annually, forever.
Jesus, the creator of the universe, came to earth to take the place of the lamb, shedding his blood once for all time. How better for Him to become the perfect sacrifice than to be born in the lowliest of conditions taking the place of the unblemished lamb. God loved us so much that he sent Jesus in total humility to provide a pathway for the restoration of our relationship with Him.
If I live my life to the best of my ability, when I die, I’ll be going to heaven, right? Unfortunately, that’s not right.
None of us can live perfect lives. We can never be good enough to enter heaven. We read in the Bible that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So while good works are important, “Works, through faith, are good and profitable for all people” (Titus 3:8), it is only through faith in Christ Jesus (John 14:16) and His sacrifice for us that we are saved, not by our works, otherwise we might think too highly of ourselves and devalue Jesus and His life.
Getting to heaven demands atonement for our sins–a sacrifice that is great and costly. That sacrifice is beyond anything that we can do, that’s why God did it for us. He sent his son, Jesus to earth to become that sacrifice. In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Does that mean that good works are worthless? Absolutely not. Faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20-24). Works are the fruit of our faith and obediently done for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16). God wants us to good. Within the Bible we read, “…what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
The question is sort of an enigma or even an oxymoron. We wonder how this could be true, but it is sadly to say frequently true. Too often it is difficult to distinguish Christian believers from non-Christians. Why? Values and behaviors seem similar. Church groups are plagued with the same problems as secular groups. Christians are promised a new life in Christ but sometimes this new life is not much different from the old life of the world.
The apostle Paul confronts this condition in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3:1. “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ.” Two thousand years later this same condition exists. Paul identifies some believers as “worldly Christians” who are like infants in spiritual development. Their guide for living is the ways of the world rather than the way of Christ. They are friends of Jesus but not true followers. Jesus is their Savior but not yet their Lord. The Bible is not their instruction book for life. They stay tuned to the message of the culture not the Word of God. They do not renew their minds with the Scriptures.
When we come by faith to know Jesus as our Savior, we are led by the Holy Spirit into a new life. The Bible calls it being ‘born again’. We have a new purpose, serving God and building His kingdom. We have a new joy, forgiveness of sin. We have a new power, the Holy Spirit. We have a new life, one that is good, pleasing, and eternal. It is a transformation that is as real as a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. Worldly Christians are intended to be transformed into the spiritual Christians, new creations in Christ, His ambassadors.
If this question stumps you, maybe you haven’t stopped to think about the many blessings you enjoy. You don’t need to have a great job, or perfect family, or new car or a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving to realize that you probably have many reasons to be thankful. You might start by being thankful for what you have, instead of dwelling on what you don’t have.
Millions of people walk this earth with much less than you have, yet many of them enjoy contentment and are thankful for what they do have. Think about this. If you live in America, you are already among the most blessed people on earth. And those blessings come directly or indirectly from God–the God who created everything, even you. So take stock of your blessings and thank the God who has made them possible. Objects of your desire may fail you. People may let you down. But even if some things are not going your way right now, God still loves you, and He wants you to know contentment even in your suffering.
All that is required for true joy is a relationship with our Creator (Ps. 37:14), who does want for us to be happy and blesses us with everything we need (Phil. 4:19), even though we may not think so. When we have a good relationship with God (Prov. 10:3), like Paul, an apostle of Jesus, we will learn in whatever situation to be content (Phil. 4:11-12). We will find that the most important thing that God can give us is Himself (Eph. 2:8-9). Once we have our eyes set on God, everything else falls into place (Matt. 6:33). Thank God with your whole heart this week!
In this era of political correctness and so-called religious tolerance we are led to believe that all religions lead to God and we often hear it said, “we are all children of God.” Unfortunately, this is not true.
It is completely correct to say “we are all loved by God”. God “created us in His Image from before time began”, formed us “fearfully and wonderfully” in our mothers’ womb, knew us “before one of our days came to be”, and loves us with an unconditional, everlasting love. It is quite humbling to realize that we can do absolutely nothing to make God love us more than He does now, and also there is absolutely nothing we do that will make Him love us LESS.
However, the Bible is very clear on this: “that whoever believes and receives Jesus has the right to be called a child of God.” (1 John 5:1) They are actually “born again” into God’s family, with God as their father. Trusting in Jesus is the only way for this to happen. Now we are loved as a precious child by the most loving and perfect Father who created us and knows us completely and will provide, protect and guide us. Not only this, but since you are God’s child, a member of the Royal household, you are also an heir to God’s eternal kingdom with all its rights and privileges. You are a child of the King – known, loved, gifted and cared for – now and forever.
Isn’t it wonderful to be able to relax and trust that all is well, regardless of what you see, because you know your Father is taking care of you? If you do not have that peace, you can have it today…surrender your life to Jesus, and become a child of God.
Two weeks ago we addressed the question, “Why is life so hard?” We regularly need to be reminded that at times life can be difficult. There is no way around that. We live in a fallen world where sin reigns mostly due to our human nature and our own choices. Sometimes the choices that others make hurt us and contribute to our discomfort. Unfortunately becoming a follower of Christ does not mean that suddenly life becomes easy. So maybe the question should be asked a different way.
How will becoming a Christian help me deal with the hard times in my life?
Think about who we are as humans. We are selfish and prideful and make wrong choices. That pretty much describes everyone with whom you interact. That’s why we all end up hurting ourselves and others and why others hurt us. But God’s good news is that Christians have a helper, we call the Holy Spirit, to comfort us when we we’re hurting; to help us see clearly when the road ahead is cloudy and dark. Life doesn’t necessarily become easier, but you are better able to endure your suffering knowing that as you sincerely call on God, he will give you peace.
When the first humans chose to break their relationship with God (Gen. 2:16-17), he promised he would provide a way to restore that relationship. He did that by first sending his son, Jesus, to suffer the consequences of our separating ourselves from God. Then he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell all those who accept the death of Jesus as the substitute for their own death, and choose to become a follower of Jesus. They, in effect, are born anew. As such, each Christian can enjoy a measure of peace knowing that Jesus has “overcome this world” (John 16:33).
James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote that we should change our perspective when we face these difficulties, because they produce joy and maturity in us when we rely on God for help in these circumstances (James 1:2-4, 2 Cor. 4:17). For a Christian, facing life’s difficulties is easier knowing that:
“The joy of the Lord is our strength”