Jesus came to this world full of sin and wickedness, leading to death. But He came because of God’s promise. As soon as Adam and Eve fell in the garden, God promised salvation through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). This seed is Jesus Christ, and today, on Christmas day, we celebrate and give thanks to God for sending His Son to us in spirit and flesh.
But where should the Son of God stay? If a president of another country comes to stay in Singapore, what kind of place would he receive for accommodation? The very best. What about God the Son? What kind of accommodation did the world provide for Him? Was there really no room at all in Bethlehem, that they needed to birth Jesus in a stable?
Luke’s gospel tells us that the sign would be that Jesus would be wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. A manger was a place where animals lived; a dirty place unsuitable for giving birth. It was full of odour and animal smells. And that stable is the epitome of the sinful world into which Jesus was born, because ‘man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.’ (Psalm 49:20).
What about our hearts today? Is my heart a stable, or a temple? We were like stables which housed beasts. But because He was born into my heart, it has become a temple of God.
Many of us think that we need to be ready and clean before we receive Jesus. But the truth is that we need salvation from our sins, and only Jesus can save us. Only the blood of Jesus can wash us clean from sin. We need to invite Him into our unclean hearts.
The stable is a place where God gave His eternal love and life
A manger was a trough which animals used to eat out of. Jesus’ birth in a manger represents how He came to feed the beasts with the bread of life. Jesus did not mind coming into the dirty manger, and He does not mind coming into your unclean heart today if you let Him in.
What significance can we find in the stable? Without Jesus being born into the stable, we would burn in hell for our sins. The stable is where God brought us eternal life. We were like an open grave, full of death within (Romans 3:13). But Jesus came into our hearts and changed it into a place of life. Jesus turned Lazarus’ tomb from a place of death into a place of resurrection and life, and He does that to our hearts today. Our heart pumps blood. But does our spiritual heart pump life or death? When we speak, do we pump life out? Jesus is being born into the cave of death, to change it into a place of life. Jesus did not come to be treated well, but to change our hearts into places of life.
The stable is the beginning point of salvation
When Jesus was born in the stable, it was the beginning point of salvation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Without Jesus, there is no grace or truth for us, and we need both in order to be saved. So without Jesus being born into the stable, there would be no grace and truth. And without Jesus coming to us, we would not be able to understand or draw close to God (John 1:18). Jesus explained the invisible God to us.
The stable is where God’s power and authority of the Word is given through the Holy Spirit
We need to come back to the place where Jesus was born, and receive the power and authority of the Word of God. Nobody knew that the Messiah was born in a stable that day, except those who were led by the Holy Spirit. No one else knew or cared. But God moved the whole universe to focus on the event of Jesus’ birth. The power and authority of God that could move the whole universe was focused on that stable at the time of Jesus’ birth. When Jesus is in our hearts, that power and authority is with us. It’s not about us being authoritative, to be masters of the Word, but to be mastered by the Word.
The stable is where the origin of history began
We account for history through years, and we use BC and AD to mark the starting point. BC and AD are marked by the birth of Jesus Christ, and so Jesus is the origin of history. What about our lives? Are we spiritually living in BC, or AD? If we have yet to receive Christ, then may we do so and move into the spiritual AD.
The stable is where eternal freedom was declared
John 8:32 tells us that those who know the truth will be set free. But from what are we being set free? What is binding us today? Our doubts, our worries, our anxieties, our sins. We celebrate Christmas because our freedom was declared at the stable.
Conclusion: The stable was a sign
Luke 2:12 tells us that a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger would be a sign. And what is a sign? A sign directs our attention to something else. So what does the birth of Christ in a stable point to? It points to His death and resurrection. This becomes clear if we juxtapose the nativity and resurrection narratives in the Gospel of Luke.
1. Both narratives feature a Mary and a Joseph (Luke 2:4-5; 23:50; 24:10)
2. The nativity narrative features a virgin womb which had not known a man (Luke 1:34), and the resurrection narrative features a virgin tomb where no man had lain (Luke 23:53).
3. In both narratives, Jesus is wrapped in clothes.
4. Both narratives feature angels which come from heaven announcing the good news, first of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13-14), and later of His resurrection (Luke 24:6).
5. Both narratives have shepherds who are given the sign of the cloths and the rock-hewn manger or tomb (Luke 2:12; 24:12).
In the Gospel of Luke, therefore, Jesus’ birth foreshadows His death and resurrection, both of which lead to our salvation. The stable was the beginning point of salvation because Jesus came to a place where beasts lived, to die for us.