You can listen to this week’s Devotional here
Author: Mark Pickett
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2.7
The story of Jesus’ birth has held a deep and abiding place in the hearts of church folk since it began long ago. But it’s interesting. There is no Christmas story in either the Gospels of Mark or John, and Matthew and Luke offer very different accounts. Matthew tells of Persian astrologers following a star. After a stop at Herod’s palace, they continue on to visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus who are abiding in a house.
Luke offers another perspective – of a traveling young couple, and a wife so pregnant that she’s about to give birth at any moment. Yet, despite her condition, they are forced to take shelter in a stable. When Jesus was born in Luke’s account, his make-shift bed was a feeding trough for animals! Then, when the birth announcements were sent out, they didn’t go to royalty or religious powerbrokers or the rich and powerful – they went to a group of working-class Joes, sleeping under the stars, tending sheep. The heart of Luke’s Gospel, starting with the Christmas story, is focused on the poor and forgotten, the powerless, the sick and oppressed people of the world.
This year as we at church prepare for the birth of Christ, there is an interesting confluence of calendar events. As we sing our carols, the international climate conference, COP 28, is drawing to a close. On December 1st, 2023 was declared the hottest year on record, with still one month to go! At the event itself, the UN Secretary-General declared, “We are living through climate collapse in real time. This year we have seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods and searing temperatures…. [This] should send shivers down the spines of world leaders.”
While these disasters impact us all, they are particularly devastating for those without the resources to rebuild or relocate, people who just have to try and make do with little or nothing. Which strikes me as being very similar to that couple in Luke’s Gospel whose maternity ward was not in a germless and pristine hospital, or even a luxury suite at the Bethlehem Hilton, rather it was in a drafty, rank-smelling stable because there simply were no other options open to them.
Come the next massive fire, flood or other inevitable natural disaster, I’ll be thinking about climate change and our lack of international effort to do enough before it is too late. But I’ll also be thinking about where God’s heart lies, as well as Luke’s story of Mary and Joseph and Jesus, and how so many others like them will continue to suffer. Maybe one message for this Christmas season might be for us all to try and direct our hearts more to where God’s heart already is.