Ordinary People

Christmas Eve/Luke 2:1-20

Mary was an ordinary young girl, and Joseph an ordinary man, when they set out for Bethlehem.  They knew that a baby was on his way – was liable to come at any moment.  But the emperor’s order did not allow for sickness or pregnancy or any other excuse, so they made their way to the village where Joseph’s family came from.  They wound their way from Nazareth, covering the nearly 100 miles through the Jordan River valley, journeying around Jerusalem and arriving in Bethlehem after ten grueling days on the trail.

It would have been a hard journey, had Mary been well and strong, but at nearly nine months pregnant, the trek was enough to launch the pains that flared into full-blown labor by the time they arrived in the little village.  They were not the only ones who returned to Bethlehem to register, and they were slower than many of the others.  By the time they arrived, no one had an extra bedroom for them to use.  Finally, taking pity on the couple, the young girl in obvious pain, a family agreed for them to stay in the back room with the animals.

Two ordinary people, taking refuge in an ordinary cattle stall, smelling the ordinary smells of wet animal hides and stale straw and dust.  By then, Mary’s labor was intense and powerful, and when she gave birth late that night, they used the only thing available to cradle the newborn infant – they placed him in a feed trough.

At least it was warm.  At least it was safe.  They made “a home where there [was] no home; Jesus [nestled] in the manger and [was] nurtured in his parents’ arms.”[1]  Before they could hardly examine this new life, Mary and Joseph found themselves surrounded by simple shepherds.  These ordinary working men had been visited by angels, a choir of angels, which sang to them of a miraculous birth, of one who had been born for all people, even for them.  Entering the room, they “gathered in the dim candlelight of the stable, as if they [were] with old friends.”[2]  “These shepherds [were] hardly the ones we would expect to be entrusted with such earth-shattering news, and yet they [were] the ones who were led to his birthing place, the ones who leave rejoicing and telling the good news to everyone they meet.”[3]

What an extraordinary story, of ordinary people.  “The Messiah who is good news for the people is an ordinary baby, born to an ordinary mother, wearing ordinary diapers, lying in a crib that is so ordinary we are apt to take pity.”[4]  “Would we believe it if we were led to a newborn Savior in a homeless shelter or a truck stop?  But here it is, in Luke’s story: the Savior of the world, the Word incarnate, takes on human flesh in the most ordinary way.”[5]

“This baby, resting in a manger on the night of his birth, will be ‘the bread of God … which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’  Each time the community gathers around the table, it remembers this mystery: that though it is beyond our comprehension, God took on human form, lived among us, suffered for us, died and was raised, that we might know true life, in this world and the next.”[6]


[1] Cynthia L. Rigby, Feasting on the Word B/1, 118

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kimberly Bracken Long, Feasting on the Word B/1, 119

[4] Rigby, 118

[5] Long, 121

[6] Ibid.


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