I look at this verse and I wonder, how many days were they in Bethlehem before the birth came. Why couldn’t they have found family or something else.
Ahhhhh, the lesson of pure humility stares back at me when I consider a birth within an animal’s fold.
A couple of years ago, well, more like 4 yrs ago, I wrote a page from the animal’s point of view of that night. So I wander back there to take a second look…
“Haut-haut! Come on, haut-haut…ummph” grunted Joseph as he gave the oxen one last shove. Slowly the team moved forward again towards the entrance. Joseph and Mary had been led to this cave a couple of days ago. Every morning it was the same, Joseph had to wrestle with his stubborn partners to reclaim the extra space for his family.
“Joseph, be gentle with your encouragement. They were here first…” Mary said. She knew it was very close, she hadn’t slept most of the night. “…today, surely he would come today” she thought.
“Well, I’d like to encourage them all the way to the altar Mary.” Joseph was clearly frustrated and why wouldn’t he be? He knew in his heart Mary was only hours away, maybe a day at the most from going into labor. She wasn’t breathing the same, she couldn’t lie still but for a moment or two. “Father, I feel like I’ve failed You…” A simple man of trade, he felt so inept in all of this.
And so Joseph plunked himself down next to Mary. He tried to help her settle, had gotten fresh rushes and straw. He managed to prepare some food and now- “what next?”
As Joseph ate, he stared off towards the entrance of the manger. “What are you looking at?” he called out to the ox. He made an effort to get up but Mary’s hand stayed him. The ox was anything but a dumb beast as Joseph was thinking. Broad and heavy of form, and able to pull great loads of weight. Joseph took a good look at the ox, noticing its eyes. Almost a trace of sweetness in the one good eye it had. “…looks like that bad eye has been your savior there ol’ boy, no altar call for you”.
And if the ox could have spoken?
Would the ox have said to Joseph, “because of that child, no more altar calls for any of us”. Ironic, that the Savior of the world lay in the midst of those who were so often chosen as sacrificial animals? And as perfect as they were judged to be, sheer perfection was missing. Over and over again the altars ran red with their blood. Time and time again the priests said the atoning words, blessed the animal and then offered it to the Most High God.
In just a few short hours, perhaps a day, this would be the beginning of the end for many of that kind. For those who would come to realize that what God had said had been fulfilled in this child – “for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin…”.
Lord there is no substitute of perfection except Jesus. Because of Him we sing “Glory to God in the highest”, for there’s peace finally in the gift You sent-