We became first-time parents in a government building in a foreign land. There was no pomp and circumstance. No parade. No party. No family. No fanfare. And although our adoption agency properly prepared us for such a low-level event, that first-day was not the norm for most first-time parents.
Joseph and Mary became first-time parents in a cave in a city faraway from their home of Nazareth. There was no pomp and circumstance. No parade. No party (except with shepherds). No family. No fanfare. And although angels properly prepared them for the significance of this birth, their first-day was not the norm for first-century parents, especially parents of royalty.
You see—their son was a King.
I try to compare and put myself for a moment in their sandals:
- We had a clean and comfortable hotel room. Joseph and Mary had a cave smelling of manure.
- We had a hotel crib. Joseph and Mary had an animal-feeding trough. (Luke 2:6–7)
- We had new blankets and baby clothes. Joseph and Mary had strips of cloth.
- We had diapers and toys packed in first-world suitcases. Joseph and Mary had whatever they could carry on their backs during the nearly 100-mile journey.
- We electronically sent photos of our first moments together to family and friends via smartphones. Mary could only treasure their first moments in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Joseph and Mary’s birth story was poor, obscure, and humble. Our story was, by comparison, that of the “rich and famous.”
But God had planned long ago that King Jesus would have a humble birth. The prophet Micah foretold this fact 700 years prior: “As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2 NASB)
Not only were the circumstances surrounding Jesus’s birth humble, but so was the city. Bethlehem was such a small and insignificant town it wasn’t even mentioned in the list of towns in Joshua 15 or Nehemiah 11 where the people of Judah lived. It’s as though it was too small to count or mention. It was smaller than the smallest suburb, like an out-in-the-country-doesn’t-even-have-a-stoplight town. Blink and you miss it.
I grew up in small town in northern Illinois. Most people have not heard of the name of my hometown. Why? Because it’s not Chicago. Our son was born in a moderately sized city in northeastern China. Outside of China, most people have not heard of his hometown. Why? Because it’s not Beijing.
In our world’s economy the little, trivial, and lowly does not usually count or bear mention. So why did God choose such a humble birth in an insignificant city for the significant birth of the King of the Universe—our Emmanuel—“God with us”?
Author and Holy Land expert Dr. Wayne Stiles notes, “Jesus’s birth story had you in mind…” Jesus’s humble birth reminds us that:
- Our lowly Savior understands our ordinary earthly lives.
- Our lowly Savior knows our poor and needy hearts.
- Our lowly shepherd humbled himself for our sakes, the salvation of our souls.
The apostle Paul in chapter two of Philippians tells us that Jesus did not grasp or cling to his divine privileges. Instead he set aside the throne room for the stable room. Entitled to the worship of dignitaries and rulers of great nations, the Lamb of God instead sought praise from often overlooked and poor shepherds, lowly keepers of lambs.
Are you feeling overlooked or insignificant?
Are you feeling poor or low in spirit?
Are you feeling like your life is trivial or without merit?
Are you feeling out of place, out of step, out of sorts?
We would have chosen a five-star hotel full of fanfare for our King and Savior. But he worked and continues to work outside the world’s economy. He chose humility. No pomp and circumstance. No parade. No party. No fanfare…for himself.
But you—like the overlooked shepherds—he notices.
But you—like insignificant Bethlehem—he chooses.
But you—with your works without merit—he saves.
What does knowing this mean to you?
In this out of step, out of sorts, not the norm Christmas season when we are separated from those we love and our celebrations are possibly without family, without fanfare, without parties, and without pomp and circumstance—may the humbleness and lowliness of this time remind you and me of Jesus’s humble and lowly birth. Let us yet praise and glorify God like the shepherds. (Luke 2:20)
“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NASB)
 Luke 2:8–20.
 Bethlehem was the ancestral home of Joseph. Whether he had family in the vicinity is unknown; the Bible does not say. But it is reasonable to assume that no family of Mary’s was present as her home was in Nazareth.
 John A. Martin, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Micah 5:2.
 As Bible commentator John A. Martin notes, the Gospel of “Luke emphasized the universal message of the gospel more than the other Gospel writers. He often wrote about sinners, the poor, and outcasts from Jewish society.” (John A. Martin, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Intro to Luke.)