Luke tells us that Joseph was returning to his home town in Bethlehem to be registered for the Roman tax with Mary, when she when she delivered her baby and placed him in a feeding trough for animals, implying that Jesus was born in a stable, because there was no room in the inn. A few years ago I made a large Christmas Star out of PVC pipe and strung it with twinkling lights. Because it has a very long tail, it only fits in one place along the front of our house - the garage. Now my garage is not one of those finished storage rooms with dry wall and paint and nice clean shelves. My garage is kind of a mess. Recently I smelled a dead rat in there. Great. It didn’t occur to me then, but later I thought, yes, that’s exactly where the star should be - over my garage! Jesus was not born in a hospital, or a nice clean hotel. He was born in a garage, a smelly room behind the house where animals slept and probably rats too. To read that Jesus was born in such a place seems like bad timing on God’s part, doesn’t it?
Surprisingly, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his son.” Jesus, in other words, was born at just the right time and in just the right place. The world was being prepared in a unique way for the message of the Messiah. That beaten-up Jewish tribe had now spread throughout the empire, bringing its great monotheistic faith into a pagan world. What’s more, it had never been safer or easier to travel vast distances because of the network of Roman roads which they protected. And it had never been easier to communicate cross-culturally due to the fact that Greek was now the universal language - easing the spread of new ideas.
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had been born at a different time in world history? Have you ever looked around and thought to yourself, “I wish I had been born in a less complicated age, a less troubled time. And I wish I had a nicer garage too...finished and painted!”
The story of Christ’s birth should cause us to stop and wonder at the timing of our birth! Why was I born in this period of human history? Why has God put me in this job? Why am seated next to that person in class? Working at this particular office? Living next door to that family? Why am so deeply moved by the stories of human or creaturely need that I see in the news? These questions obviously take time to answer, but know this: like Jesus you were born at just the right time, and in just the right place, to shine your light for Him.