And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
Before we leave Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth, perhaps you might indulge me in a small flight of fancy. I may be reading rather too much into this verse, but I wonder if we might find the shadow of Golgotha lying across this tender scene of new motherhood? I wonder if the beginning of Jesus’ life points to his death?
On Good Friday Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish ruling council, made his way to the house of the Roman governor and asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Permission granted, he made his way to the site of the crucifixion and took down Jesus’ body. We then read he “wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid” (Luke 23:53). Once more Jesus body is “wrapped” and once more his body is “laid” down. There was no room for the infant Jesus in the inn, so he was laid in a borrowed manger which had surely not been used as a crib before. Here Jesus is laid in a borrowed tomb, one in which no one had ever yet been laid.
The circumstances of Jesus’ burial are as humble as those of his birth. His tremendous, era defining significance comes not from what he has, but rather from who he is. His first and his final (temporary!) resting places were both borrowed, and he was wrapped by other hands for both.
At both ends of his earthly life we are invited to wonder that one so majestic should lain in something so humble, and so it is today. It is to humble hearts that Jesus comes, to those who trust him for who he is.