[Rev. Gerrit Vos (1894-1968) was long-time pastor of the Hudsonville, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church.]
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:6, 7.
We are inclined to pity both Jesus and Mary!
Here we have the eternal Miracle about to be revealed: God manifested in the flesh - but we have to go into a dirty stable to see it!
Here is the most blessed of all women, the mother of God according to the flesh; but she has not even a layette for the little Jesus! And just a sour-smelling manger for a cradle.
I have seen humble homes in my day - but never did I see such misery as we meet here. Even if there is no more than a reed basket, it is at least lined with pretty cloth.
Yes, our thoughts turn to the pitiful picture once more.
And yet - what a mistaken pity.
If you must pity, then pity the hostelries, the inns and taverns of Bethlehem. Yes, and also all the wicked inhabitants of Bethlehem. There were others.
Here they have the birth of God in their rnidst, and no one lays it to heart.
What wondrous circumstances surround the miracle of all miracles.
Yes, and everyone of these circumstances is divinely ordained.
It was of God that Augustus desired the tally of his subjects. And so his messengers went out into all the world.
It was of God, therefore, that Joseph and Mary went on their way to the city of David.
It was of the Lord that this little city was overcrowded so that there was no room for this little group.
No, Joseph and Mary did not know of all these divinely ordained circumstances. I would not be at all surprised if Joseph and Mary often said in these days, How unfortunate that exactly in these days we have to make such a journey! But the angels smiled! They had their instruction, and they knew.
And so it was, that, while they were there .
There you have it: God's time had come. The time in His counsel which is called the fullness of time.
The time had come that she should be delivered.
That is proper. There are a certain number of days that are set for the mother to deliver her child. God is an orderly God, and He certainly had reckoned with that order of His Own creation.
And so she brought forth her firstborn Son.
She was the end of the line, and what a line!
It had been a most miserable line: the seed of the woman.
It had been a most tortuous line, a line which was influenced by all the wiles of the devil. He had exhausted all his devilish resources to stifle the issue of that line at every juncture. From generation to generation he had stood before that woman, ready to kill the seed as soon as it would appear. See Revelation 12.
What a line! it includes murderers, harlots, and miserable deceivers and liars.
All we have left is a virgin that knows not a man! What can a virgin do with reference to the line of coming, ever coming seed, without a man?
It's against all God's ordinances of genetics!
But wait! Here is the fulfillment of the woman of Revelation 12. Mary is in pain; she is in pain to be delivered!
And so it was that the virgin who knew not a man is nevertheless in pain to be delivered of a Man child. And she did! She did bring forth the song of the angels. Hallelujah!
And what was God's part?
Mary's part we know. This Baby is not any different from any other baby that was born then or now, sin excepted.
But what was God's part?
This was God's part first of all: He supplanted the will of man in the genesis of this Man child. The almighty power of God overshadowed Mary, and that Holy Thing that was born of her was consequently called the Son of God!
That was God's part.
But there is more.
Although this Baby did not differ from other babies, as far as we could see, He is nevertheless God's Only Begotten Son. He is personally God out of God.
Let us put it this way. If you had been present at this deliverance, and if you had seen the swaddling of this Infant, and the laying down in the manger, you would have been absolutely right if you had cried out at that time: There lies the living God in that manger! There lies the Son of the living God!
Yes, we agree with the text, "And she brought forth her firstborn Son "; but it is also true that at the same time the living God said in heaven, "Thou art My Son: this day I have begotten Thee!"
That is the marvel of Christmas: God manifests Himself in the flesh (I Tim. 3:16).
And from that truth comes superabounding riches of salvation.
Attend to this: God brings forth His eternal Son; and Mary brings forth her Son. And that means this: His Name is Immanuel, God with us. He is both God and man.
Oh, beloved reader, that Name means unspeakable riches for God's people.
It is the manifestation of the sweetest mercy and pity for us.
Here we are: filthy and corrupt. And that is bad,
but it is not the worst of our horrors. Such filth and corruption
makes us guilty before God. Do you know what guilt is? It is liability
to punishment. And do you know what the punishment is: it is eternal
desolation in hell for all eternity.
But the birth of the Godchild means that God has
identified Himself with all these horrors which are the
portion of every elect son and daughter of Adam. The Incarnation means that God enters our prison, that God takes upon Himself all our damnation.
Is that not mercy? Is that not pity?
Oh, beloved, how happy must have been the church that this God-man came down to us!
No, His reception is cold.
There is no room for Him.
Here is the Son of the King, but His cradle is a manger.
He came to His own, but His own received Him not.
He came to do good. (What poverty in this little sentence: He came to do good! Forsooth! Read the last two chapters of Revelation, and then come back to my little sentence! I wish that I had command of all the words, all the music, all the wondrous melody of the Universe. And then I would again say and sing: He came down to do good!)
Again: He came to earth to do good, but everyone turned away from Him. Judas sold Him after prudent appraisal: he came to the conclusion that 30 pieces of silver was enough!
Peter was ashamed to be named in one breath with Him: I know not the Man!
All the disciples fled, and were offended at Him.
He was fully announced, but no one organized a reception.
And yet, we can understand it.
There is no place in Bethlehem, the world, the human heart.
First of all, the fact that there was no room for Jesus and His parents was not because they hated Jesus. The inn keeper knew nothing about the coming of Jesus. The fact that there was no room in the inn was a God~ordained sign.
No, the fact that there was no room for Jesus in the inn tells you the following: This occurrence announces a program, a program which will end on the Cross.
This occurrence announces the truth that for our sake Jesus became poor. Only remember this: the poverty you see in Bethlehem in stable, manger, swaddling clothes is a sign of our spiritual poverty. And we do not like to be reminded of it.
This occurrence tells us that Jesus is born lying on the very edge of the world, and that we will finally push Him off that edge. Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
They serve a different god in Bethlehem. They serve self, humanity, sin, and corruption.
Consciously or unconsciously, but everyone says no to Jesus.
Mary said no: How can this be seeing I know not a man?
Joseph says no: he was going to put Mary away privily.
Zacharias says no: he even has to be made dumb for his sin.
And now Bethlehem says no: and this no is your and my no, the no of all the world, the elect included.
And if you say, "But the shepherds were glad and obedient to the heavenly vision, were they not?" Then I would take a phrase out of your very objection: heavenly vision. If it were not for that phrase, they also would have said no.
Oh yes, if you have the heavenly vision the matter becomes entirely different. Then you worship; then you worship; then you worship! Hallelujah!
How blessed a fact that He was rejected!
For His rejection is our acceptance.
Remember that He became poor for us. He became poor in order to make us fabulously rich.
And as far as place, room, is concerned, He captivates a place. And what a place!
That place is now a broken and contrite heart. There He dwells and feels at home.
Oh yes, He captivates a place.
And that place will be a new heaven and a new earth.
There will be ample room for Jesus and His own in the wondrous new heaven.
Blessed night when Jesus was born!