12.25.2012

asleep on the hay



I’m sitting out in our family’s barn. Around me are the puzzled faces of our eleven sheep (Liberty, Jasmine, Baby, Pixie, Rocky, Huckleberry, Rosemary, Little Brother, Little Sister, Piaget, and Titterbug) as well as a confused llama, probably the neighbor’s cat somewhere, and an assortment of chickens. Our little bantam rooster named Copperfield has been inching his way toward me for the last ten minutes, tilting his head back and forth confusedly, and looking hurriedly away whenever I look up at him. In fact, they’re all pretty confused. Not only were they expecting me to be mom coming out to feed them, but they also can’t quite figure out what this white, book-like object is on my lap, and why I keep tapping on it in strange rhythms. And my guess is that in addition to the sheep, you might be a little confused as well.
I’m out here, fingers going numb, hay scratching my ankles, sitting on a bale of orchard grass, because it’s Christmas. And honestly, every year this holiday seems to go by before I have really stopped to think, to remember the one who’s birthday we’re celebrating. While inside, I thought, “Oh, I should go out to the barn to get a little picture of what Jesus’ birth was really like.” And in just the few minutes I’ve spent here with that purpose, what I’ve learned is already much different than what I was expecting.
Of course, there are the things we’ve all thought about. How dirty it is, for example. I mean, for the home of a flock of sheep, this barn is actually pretty clean. But when I imagine sleeping on that hay… nooooo thank you. And then to picture a young woman giving birth in that stall… it’s disgusting. Just the idea of anyone giving birth in an animal’s shelter is terrible. But then I add on top of it that this birth wasn’t just anyone. This was God. The LORD. The Great I AM. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The One and Only.  He could have been born literally anywhere. And He chose this. This.
But what has struck me most of all isn’t the dirtiness, the cold, or the puzzled animals. What hit me most of all has been the insignificance.
No one really knows or cares about our little barn. Sure, it’s cute, and the sheep are sweet, but it’s not important to anyone but our family and sheep friends. The barn is always “out back,” behind the things that people generally want to get to. In our country, the barns are all far away from cities, where the people go. Some people think barns are quaint, and maybe even have a calendar or picture of one at home, but that’s about it. There is nothing significant about an old, wooden, cobweb-filled, sheep barn.
Yet God entered the world here.
Anywhere else in the world could have been more significant, more fitting. Didn’t the God of the universe deserve even a clean floor? Or a bed to be laid in? Yes. He deserved the glories of Heaven, incomparable to any king’s palace. But God’s mission wasn’t about getting what He deserved. And it wasn’t about giving what we deserved. The reason He came was to die a death He did not have to die. So, strangely, it’s clear that He began by being born in a way He did not have to be born. While this Savior-child lay in a trough for animals, other children were sound asleep inside the inn. Those same children may have been the ones shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” thirty-three years later. And crucify Him they did. We did.
Out here in the barn, I just keep wondering, why? Why did He choose a birth like this? Why did He choose a death like that? Why were the first to hear of His birth shepherds? And honestly, right now, I don’t know. All I know is that my God, the Highest of Highs, came down to the lowest of lows. He came for me.
My Prince of Peace, He came for me.
I don’t understand His grace or His mercy. It leaves me confused. Confused like the sheep who still stand watching me. But then, Jesus never promised explanations, He promised Himself. He Himself was the gift that Christmas Day, and He still is the greatest gift I will ever receive.
Time to head inside. The sheep will baa when I leave, wondering why I didn’t feed them. But I’ll let them wait until mom comes out. It’s okay that they are confused, because their Shepherd is coming.

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