I posted a link to this lesson a couple of years ago after it first aired, but our church replayed it this weekend and it’s worth linking to again. It’s our pastor discussing some little known historical facts about Christmas and the nativity. It’s about 40 minutes long, but the pertinent section starts at about the 15 minute mark, and if you have time I recommend giving it a watch.
For those who don’t have time, here’s the tl;dr version of the part that stood out to me: Jesus wasn’t born in some random stable and placed in any old manger. At the time of his birth, Bethlehem was the main center of the sheep-rearing industry that had grown up around the Jewish sacrificial system. All of the lambs that were used in the temple offerings in Jerusalem were bred and born in Bethlehem.
When it came time for a ewe to give birth, the shepherds would bring her to the tower of the sheep, a structure with a stone manger that served as a birthing center for the lambs. When a lamb was born, they would quickly swaddle it in strips of cloth and lay it in the manger to keep it calm and still until they could finish up with the mother and then examine the lamb to make sure it met the criteria for the sacrifice–being without any spot or defect.
It’s believed that this is the manger Jesus was laid in, wrapped in the same strips of cloth that were used to wrap the newborn lambs. It’s also likely that the shepherds that the angels appeared to to announce his birth weren’t random shepherds, but the same shepherds who watched over the official flock and oversaw the birth of each lamb.
Why did this lesson touch me so? Because it shows that God is not random. Just look at the care to detail He showed in arranging the birth of His Son — the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be redeemed once and for all.
And guess what? God cares just as much about the details of our lives–yours and mine. Nothing He allows into your life is random. Everything serves a purpose, and nothing escapes His notice or is beyond His care.
This Christmas, let’s remember how much God loves us, and let that reassure us how very much in control He is, and how very much He cares.