In recent years we’ve seen the birth of more successors to the English throne. Prince George was born in 2013 and princess Charlotte in 2015. As they are third and fourth in the line of succession to the British throne, I’m sure the very best physical care that England had to offer was provided for their birth and subsequent childhoods.
The birth and childhood of Jesus Christ was anything but similar. Even though Jesus was of royal blood and set to inherit the throne over all things, Christ’s birth was associated with many signs of poverty.
For example, rather than being born to a royal queen, Jesus was born to a woman of no particular worldly significance. We read in Luke’s gospel: ‘… God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary’ (Luke 1:26-27). Note that Mary lived in the region called Galilee. This part of Israel was treated with contempt by the Jews living in the South. For example, later on in Jesus’ life people consider it impossible for someone important to come from such a region. They ask: ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee? (John 7:41). But not only that, Mary is from Nazareth, a town in Galilee that was despised even by other Galileans. A Galilean is quoted in the gospel of John asking: ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ (John 1:46). Thus, Jesus starts life in this world in the womb of a woman of no significance in a notorious town in a frowned upon state.
But Jesus’ experience on earth didn’t improve when it came to his actual birth. Rather than being born in the capital city of the Israelite nation, Jesus ended up being born in the small town of Bethlehem. We read: ‘So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David’ (Luke 2:4). Then, if matters couldn’t get any worse for this prince of the world, he was born in the worst possible place for you to have a child: where the animals live. Rather than being born in a hospital or even a nice house, we read: ‘While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (Luke 2:6-7). Can you believe it? The future king of the world was placed in a feeding trough rather than an expensive cot. But why? Why would God allow his to be born in such an appalling way? Would we not be flabbergasted if Prince George was born in a barn in a small notorious town of England? Shouldn’t we be shocked even more when we consider that Jesus was the future ruler over all things, not simply the British Kingdom? Why would God allow such a travesty?
None of this was a mistake. The humble birth of Christ was simply the first stage of a life filled with pain and suffering that God had planned for his Son. Christ’s life did not improve after his birth, instead he went on to be tortured and crucified, even while the title ‘King of the Jews’ hung over his head. But why would God plan such a life of pain for his Prince? Peter tells us: ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1Peter 3:18). Christ went through a life of humiliation, beginning with his birth, so that sinners could be in a right relationship with God.
The truth is, we all deserve to be punished for our sins. We deserve to experience poverty, suffering and excruciating death. But Christ willingly took that punishment so that, if we believe in him, we can live in heaven instead. This is why Christmas is so wonderful. Our king took on rags so that we could take on riches. Won’t you trust in Christ as your King this Christmas?