In case you missed it, yesterday’s post introduced the idea of why the Birth of Jesus was a difficult one, and how we tend to smooth out the rough edges of the Christmas story. But ultimately, it’s a good thing for us that it was a difficult birth, because it helps us to see how to better live our difficult lives.
Yesterday’s post specifically addressed the element of scandal in Christ’s birth.
The Discomfort of Christmas
We know from Luke 2.1-7 that Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem because a census was being taken. Joseph had to return there because it was the city of his ancestors, and so that’s where they were when it was time for Jesus to be born.
As travelers, and especially as travelers expecting a birth, they needed a place to stay. It would have been ideal to stay with relatives, but apparently that was not an option, even though they were in Joseph’s ancestral home. The inn at Bethlehem wouldn’t have been a Four Seasons or a Hilton; it would have been a humble place to stay. But even that wasn’t an option.
So Jesus was born in a manger.
And we have some artistic representations of this which look pretty nice and inviting: comfortable and warm-looking straw, pleasing bright light, smiling people, and friendly animals. Maybe even a little drummer boy there providing musical entertainment in the background…
In reality, scholars think that, probably, the manger would have been located in a cave. That’s likely what would have been used for a barn or stable in that area in those days. Dark, maybe damp and cold, probably smelly—this is where Jesus was born. Not a comfortable place.
Discomfort in Our Lives
Just like we try to smooth over the discomfort in the Birth of Jesus, a lot of times we try to do that in our lives as well.
I believe the Bible teaches that God wants a lot of things for your life. He wants you to be saved, he wants you to holy, he wants you to be joyful (which is different than you being “happy”, but that’s a post for a different day); I don’t think that God wants you to be comfortable.
Comfort is a big part of what we want—a nice warm house, nice things, the latest technology to make life easier, relationships with our friends and families that make us feel good, nice vacations and lots of money set aside for retirement, sermons that put a smile on our face and don’t call us to sacrifice—we like comfort, but God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.
If you take the teachings of Jesus seriously, they don’t lead to a comfortable life. A fulfilling life? Yes. A purposeful life? Sure. A blessed life? Absolutely! But not a comfortable one.
Love your enemies…
Seek first the kingdom…
Care for the poor…
Preach the gospel…
Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me…
If you take them seriously, the teachings of Jesus will turn your life upside down—they will disrupt your goals, re-arrange your priorities, and change the very lenses through which you view life.
Don’t shy away from discomfort!
Give of your means (to the church, to those in need, to charities) to the point that it hurts, that it makes you less comfortable.
Study the parts of Scripture that are difficult and unsettling.
Force yourself to be around that Christian brother or sister who drives you crazy and figure out how to love them.
Share your faith, even if—especially if— it makes you nervous and makes your heart race.
Don’t shy away from the discomfort of life.