Do you suppose that when Isaiah eloquently proclaimed, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (2 Nephi 19:6), he or the numerous other prophets that foretold of Christ’s birth realized that this Son of God, Savior, and Redeemer would be born in a stable of such humble circumstance?
Joseph and Mary were poor. Perhaps, if they had more money, they might have secured more comfortable lodging. How must Joseph have felt, not being able to provide better circumstances for his wife and the Son of God?
Before bringing our first born son home from the hospital, I was so excited and nervous that I ran all around our tiny apartment cleaning and dusting everything. If I could have sterilized the entire apartment, I would have. Not a single germ could fall on our baby. It had to be clean and bright and perfect for our precious son.
Joseph’s heart must have ached to have his beloved Mary deliver the King of Kings in a stable of cattle, dung and hay. I have cleaned many a stable with pitch fork and shovel. It is hard to imagine such a birthplace for the Savior.
How do you suppose that Mary felt that night of all nights? An angel had told her, “Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28). I wonder if she expected more as a woman highly favored of God? I wonder if she thought it would come to this, alone in a stable with the inexperienced assistance of a young husband and the beasts of the field?
The depth of her humility, faith, and understanding was manifest with her response to the angel when he announced to her that she would bear the Savior of the world. Mary replied, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
As desperate as those humble circumstances were, what joy must have filled their hearts and that tiny stable at the birth of the Baby Jesus. No joy is greater than witnessing the miracle of birth – even if in a stable. And this was no ordinary birth. Never before or since has any birth been so greatly anticipated or so widely recorded. And justifiably so, for Jesus was no ordinary man.
Was this an appropriate birthplace for Him who created the heavens and earth, redeemed all mankind, and rose triumphant from the grave?
In terms of the sterilized hospitals of today, with their competent physicians and sophisticated equipment, the answer is no. But upon reflection of the Savior’s life and mission, a lowly stable is perhaps the most appropriate of all settings for the Savior’s birth. After all, it was the Savior himself who taught “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28). He later taught his apostles, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
Do you think it was an accident or lack of planning on Heavenly Father’s part to allow his Only Begotten Son to be born in a stable? Do you suppose He left such an important event to take place by chance? I hardly think so.
He who knows all from eternity to eternity must have had good reasons to allow events to unfold as they did. Perhaps there are great lessons to be learned from Christ’s humble birth. The sacred simplicity and majesty of that night caused multitudes of angels to sing praises to God.
Upon reflection, simplicity seems to mark most of the truly significant events of the Savior’s life and his interactions with us – a stable, a garden, a hill, a grove of trees, quiet whisperings within our hearts. No tinsel, bows, bells, or flashing lights were present at these simple sacred places to detract from the holy purposes of each event.
It is appropriate to have symbols to remind us of Christ and Christmas. Even in the most sacred places, we use symbols. But, in our attempt to remember and celebrate Christ’s birth, let us not allow symbols to overshadow the symbolized.
We were not there in the flesh on that sacred night some 2000 years ago, but the same opportunity offered to the wise men and shepherds is extended to each one of us. “Come follow me” the Savior said. He is the light and star we follow. Some of the gifts we can bring are broken hearts, contrite spirits and lives of meaningful service.
Elder Jack H. Goaslind said, “Let us rejoice that Jesus Christ’s Atonement really makes it possible for us to truly repent, wipe clean our slate, start over, and virtually begin a wonderful life. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that regardless of any inadequacies we have – or feel we have, or have been told we have, whether real or perceived – the Lord Jesus Christ can make up any difference that may remain after we have done all we can to overcome our weaknesses. If we really believe what Jesus Christ says about what He can do for us, we can develop sufficient hope in our lives to overcome discouragement and to fill our lives with meaning and fulfillment” (“Look to the Future with Optimism,” Ensign, April 1997).
Sister Sheri Dew testified:
“The Savior isn’t our last chance, He is our only chance. Our only chance to overcome self-doubt and catch a vision of who we may become. Our only chance to repent and have our sins washed clean. Our only chance to purify our hearts, subdue our weaknesses, and avoid the adversary. Our only chance to find peace and happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. His Atonement makes available all of the power, peace, light an strength that we need to deal with life’s challenges – those ranging from our own mistakes and sins to trials over which we have no control but we still feel pain” (“Our Only Chance,” Ensign, May 1999).
There was no room for Him at the inn. We might well ask ourselves if we have room for Him in our “Inn of Life.” Are we so preoccupied with worldly concerns that we don’t have room in our Inn for the Savior? Do we take time to study and ponder His life and gospel so freely offered to us? Do we think about Him during our busy days, and does this affect our behavior?
Nearly 2000 years ago, it was Joseph and Mary who stood at the door of the inn and knocked. Today it is the Savior himself who stands at the door of our inn and knocks. Will we let Him in? In the words of a Christmas carol written by Michael McLean, “Whether it be in your world today or in a crowded Bethlehem Inn, find a way, make Him room, let him in.”
I testify that indeed it was our Savior who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. He who descended beneath every human pain and disappointment, He who was born in a simple sacred stable – is He who ransomed his life for us. He is the same to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that He is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He is the One I love, the One I seek to serve, the One to whom I owe everything, the One whose birth we celebrate.
May we each feel the warmth of his love and the hope his birth represents this Christmas season.