Day 6: Straw
Luke 2:7 “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
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Nesting. There’s a strong instinct for mother to want to gather the best for her baby. To create a place where her child can enter the world surrounded by bright cheerful colors, warm comforting fabrics and gentle lullabies. A space that is clean and safe. I’m sure Mary longed for such comforts for first child. And while she foresaw the difficulties of the social stigmas that came with her unique pregnancy, she probably assumed God would help her and Joseph provide a safe and stable home for the Son of God. And yet, as she gets close to her delivery date, she is forced by a census to move to a different city. We don’t know the exact arrangement. The Bible doesn’t say Mary delivered Jesus in a stable. But it does say she immediately laid her baby in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn.”
When I was visiting Cambodia, we went to a house that brings this strange detail into clearer view. The house had two levels. The nicer room was upstairs and under that was a makeshift stable built among the support beams where they would bring the animals in for the night. And yes, that stable had a manger. And in that manger … there wasn’t a baby laying in the manger :) . However, seeing that setup makes this story understandable. The upper room at the house where Mary is staying is filled with noisy guests. The baby would like a quiet place to sleep. The manger provides a calm, warm place for the newborn to nestle down and get some sleep.
It is fascinating that any baby, let alone the promised savior, would find themselves laying in a manger.
I assume this detail could only have been provided to the future author of the gospel of Luke by Mary herself. I can see Mary telling the story. “Yes, yes the house was so crowded! If the baby was fussy I didn’t have much choice but to take him downstairs to the stable. And would you believe where’d He’d sleep? In the manger!”, Mary would chuckle as she retold the story, “I’d just wrap him real tight in whatever I could find and .. ya know… I think he liked it in there! Course Jesus could sleep just about anywhere really”.
Sleeping in a manger: a curiosity of little importance. This detail seems frivolous to include in the passage It’s not vital to the story.
Unless you’re a mother that lays her own baby in a manger each night.
Then it becomes extremely important. I’m not joking. Many mothers have little choice but to lay their babies down to sleep in places that seem strange to us. I’ve a seen a baby laying in the arms of a woman begging in the streets of Ethiopia. I’ve a seen a baby wrapped on the back of a woman riding tandem on a moped in Asia. I’ve seen teary-eyed babies crying without sound lying in cribs stacked like bunk beds three high in an orphanage.
Today, right now in our world there are newborns that will spend the night in rougher places than a manger. And our Heavenly Father knows the name of each one of these children.
By making his own Son homeless; by placing the King of Kings in the straw of a manger; God acknowledges the mothers that wish they could nest in a nursery, but have to make a bed out of straw over a dirt floor. Our generous King speaks to the least among us. By humbling Himself in the story of the nativity, He invites into His Kingdom those that this world can’t seem to find a place for.
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Copyright All images & writing © 2018 Charis Seed Photography