Why do we work so hard to make Jesus unapproachable when God put so much effort into tearing down barriers? Why do we build ornate cathedrals, invest in expensive garments and commission intricate stained glass? Each gold-plated decoration puts more distance between God and the common man.
I understand where it comes from. God is holy and fully deserving of the best. The Old Testament tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, was breathtaking and perfect. But that changed with Jesus. Man became the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. No building is God’s house today.
I’ve been looking at the Christmas story and am overwhelmed by how underwhelming it is. It’s simple and ordinary except for angels and wisemen.
First, God announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. Few people were lower on the caste ladder than shepherds. Theirs was a position of no status or noteriety. When making decisions or seeking advice, no one went looking for shepherds.
Second, Jesus was in a feeding trough. It makes sense since there was a feeding trough that his birthplace was in a livestock setting. Do you get that? No one feels intimidated in barns. No one puts on their fancy shoes to go feed the livestock. I can’t think of a simpler, less ornate, less religious setting.
Why did God choose such a humble setting? Maybe the key is in John 3:16 in the word “whoever.” Whoever would believe would receive. Simple.
So many people stay away from Jesus because they aren’t religious, don’t have good enough clothes, have no money or feel like they won’t fit in with the church crowd. Maybe you’re one of them. Would you feel the same if I invited you to come tour a barn with me?
I think that’s the simplicity that God had in mind. From shepherds to kings, from criminals to humanitarians, from poor to rich, from uneducated to matriculated, from plain to fancy … everyone is welcome to approach the manger. As the Christchild grew, that never changed. Everyone is welcome.
Let’s stop lining up hurdles for people to jump before we invite them to begin a relationship with Jesus.