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The Advent Series-Day Seventeen

Day 17: God in the Margins

Matthew 2:12 - “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

A sheep by a manger with a baby.

Copyright All images & writing © 2018 Charis Seed Photography All rights reserved

Mary had a perfectly good home. She was engaged. It was the tradition of the time that being engaged was a much more binding agreement than it is now. Once a man had pledged himself to marrying a woman he would then go and prepare a place for them to live. He would build a house for his future family. And the man Mary was pledged to marry was a carpenter. Joseph’s profession was more of that of a contractor. He knew how to build a fine house. And being he was honorable, respected, wanting to impress his soon-to-be-wife and generally show off his skills as a carpenter, we can also guess the house he was preparing was top-notch. Or at least the highest notch he could reach.

Joseph was set to have a house and Mary was ready to make it a home. But then there were disruptions.

A pregnancy, a census, an inconvenient journey.

And soon it is time for Mary to give birth. It is not the place they dreamed. It’s not their hometown. Conditions are less than idea. Luke 2:7 states “And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The word translated “inn” is the word most often translated “guest room” so the best case scenario is they stayed with relatives. It would be Joseph’s relatives because Joseph is from Bethlehem. Mary is staying with her In-laws. Well, future in-laws, as they are not married yet. Mary is staying at the home of her future in-laws while giving birth to a child that is not Joseph’s. And somehow in this arrangement there isn’t enough room in the house for her baby and she has to lay him in a manger for a crib.

First-time parents can be pretty insecure. I’m sure Mary was regretful that she didn’t have a clean home to make a bed for Jesus in. And Joseph the carpenter is probably a little pained he had to leave the bassinet he carved for Jesus behind. And I’m sure they are a little self conscious that their child, the Son of God, has been pushed away from every comfort they were preparing for Him and forced into the margins of this little place they have come to shelter in.

Except God’s not being pushed anywhere.

God has chosen to be in a manger. God has chosen to be born poor. God has chosen to be born illegitimate. And let’s not forget He’s made the humbling choice to be born human. God has chosen to write His story not in the center of the page, but in the margins. It’s a quirk of who God is. God likes to dwell in unexpected places.

The problem with the unexpected is, well, it’s not what we expected. Mary and Joseph were not where they expected to be to give birth to their first born child. I’m sure they felt a little disoriented having to leave behind every assumption they had of how things were going to be. But, that is where God is, He is always found somewhere beyond our expectations.

I’d like to encourage you. You may find you are not experiencing the holiday you hoped for. Despite your best plans you find yourself in places you didn’t expect with people you didn’t expect to include. It’s natural to feel confusion when things are going differently than you planned. But pause and take a breath this season. God may be pushing you into the margins because that is where He likes to be. Look for Him in these unanticipated places and unexpected people because that’s where Jesus is found.

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Copyright All images & writing © 2018 Charis Seed Photography

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