This article is a reprint of an article in the Winter 2018 issue of Inside Journal®, a quarterly newspaper printed and distributed by Prison Fellowship® to correctional facilities across the country.
A NOT-SO-MERRY CHRISTMAS
The situation was bleak. A young man had just learned his fiancée was pregnant—and he was not the father of her child. He was having doubts about staying with her. They lived in a small town, and this scandalous situation was sure to turn them into social outcasts.
The couple's country was experiencing political unrest, and they were ordered to make a difficult journey to a faraway city. It was almost time for the man's fiancée to give birth, yet despite the risks, they had no choice but to travel for days. When they reached the young man's hometown, they couldn't find lodgings. But his partner was already in labor. With nowhere else to go, she delivered her baby in an unfamiliar place, with no doctors, no sterilized equipment, and no newborn clothing. She wrapped the baby in cloths and used a manger for a crib.
AN INCREDIBLE STORY
By now, it's probably obvious that the unnamed family here is Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus. It's a familiar story. We've heard how Jesus had a virgin mother and a manger for a crib, but do we ever stop and really think about how scary, and maybe overwhelming, this must have been for the new parents?
This wasn't a fancy situation. This was a young man and woman, with zero experience as parents, placing the Son of God in a manger—a feeding trough for dirty, smelly farm animals.
THE RELATABLE BIRTH
The situation surrounding Jesus' birth was messy, but God intended it that way. If Jesus' birth story involved a palace, a solid gold crib, and celebrity doctors, would we feel like we could connect to it at all? Instead, this King of Kings entered this world in a humble, simple way we can all relate to.
He came into the world as a baby (just like we do) through a young couple struggling with real-world problems (just like we have). His birth story was filled with difficulties and obstacles (just like our lives are). He arrived in the middle of disgraceful circumstances (literally—Mary was considered a disgrace, and you can imagine how many people thought she was a liar when she explained she was a pregnant virgin).
God could have chosen a wealthy, experienced married woman to carry His Son, and a well-respected man to help raise that Son. But He chose a poor, unmarried, unremarkable couple—two virtual "nobodies." God could have even sent His Son as a strong, grown adult, not reliant upon anyone else. But He chose a tiny, helpless newborn who needed feeding and nurturing.
GOD'S PERFECT LIGHT
Even the timing of Jesus' arrival was perfectly planned. This was a dark period in this history of God's people, but Jesus' birth meant an end to "that time of darkness and despair … " (Isaiah 9:1, NLT). Jesus came during darkness in order to bring light. After all, the darker an environment is, the easier it is to see light. It's hard to see a flashlight on a sunny day.
Before the Christmas story, people had no way to escape from the consequences of their bad choices, no hope of ending their separation from God. They were trapped and needed a rescuer. So God sent His Son—not for His benefit, but for ours, because He cares about us. Matthew 20:28 says,
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many."
He paid our ransom through His death on the cross. Simply put, Jesus was born to die. John, an eyewitness to many of the events in Jesus’ life, adds,
"God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:17).
Jesus arrived at a dark time and in difficult conditions. Prison feels that way sometimes—especially around the holidays, when loneliness and sadness are at their worst. It can be very hard to find a reason to celebrate, and you may feel totally disconnected from all the talk about love, joy, and peace. But even if your Christmas seems anything but merry and bright, God can still shine light into your life.
He came that Christmas night as the light of the world to free people from their sin and darkness. And not just other people … you.
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