Dec. 23, 2008
It was not too many years ago that all milk in this country came from dairy farmers who milked their cows by hand. To go into a dairy barn in winter was to enter a place of peace and warmth. I remember how my Uncle Bill stripped off his coat, even his shirt, to milk the cows on his Connecticut farm.
I thought of that scene in the dairy barn when my wife and I visited Versailles in France. Queen Marie Antoinette liked to play the role of milkmaid. King Louis XIV built that palace as a monument to his own greatness. He may have styled himself the Sun King, but his palace was freezing. In all their portraits the kings and queens of France are draped in magnificent furs. Fur was the foundation of France's colonial empire in North America. Rich beaver, mink, and, especially, snow-white ermine pelts were brought back to France from Canada. Those furs in the elaborate portraits were not just for show. Surrounded as those royals were by gold, marble, and fine crystal, they nonetheless lived in a frigid atmosphere. As much as it delights the eye, all that gold was cold.
At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings. But our Lord Jesus was born in no great palace. However exalted such a birthplace might have been, such palaces were death traps. Many of those little princes of France died of pneumonia. No. our Lord was born in a lowly stable. And we believe that baby Jesus was surrounded at his birth by oxen, donkeys, and other farm animals. His birthplace must have been warm and secure.
Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. He knew where to place His only begotten Son that He might be kept warm and safe. There, in that rude stable, nurtured by His loving Mother, with faithful Joseph the Carpenter standing watch, the Christ Child came into our world.
Jesus' birth is the most important thing that ever happened in this world. God's Word became Flesh. Jesus came to conquer sin and death. He came to give us forgiveness of our sins that we might live with Him forever. Compared with this incomparable Truth, what is the significance of princes of finance or commanders of armies, of kings and queens, of presidents and prime ministers? Jesus is Lord. That is the Good News we need. It is the Good News we have received.