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I wonder what it was like in the place where Jesus was born? We are told that Mary laid her baby in a feeding trough because there was no room for her and Joseph in the inn. The images we see on Christmas cards paint a picture of a warm clean place where animals apparently gazed knowingly at the baby. But we don’t know. In all probability the stable was a dirty place, dark and inappropriate for the birth of a child.

The baby was not an ordinary child, but one that changed lives within minutes of His birth. Scripture tells us that shepherds visited the stable and left glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen (Luke 2:20). The shepherds couldn’t stop talking about the experience of meeting Jesus, and they could not stop worshipping God because of that experience.

The shepherds came to the stable and were transformed. Others may have visited the stable and left without being changed. Every Christmas sees many visitors to the stable, be it through church services, nativity plays, Christmas card imagery, or any of the many ways in which Christmas is burned into the human mind. But it seems that few are changed by the experience.

It was a new experience for God to live in a created body with all its constraints. But if human beings truly kneel at the stable then the experience of newness is similar. Jesus taught that we must be born again if we are to see, to know, to perceive, to understand Him (John 3:3). When He talked about being born again Jesus was inviting humanity into a new experience. It is not enough to simply come to the stable. God’s children must be transformed completely by the experience. For a new child of God this means kneeling, accepting, surrendering everything to God, and entering into a new experience in which everything begins again. If that has not happened in our lives then we have not been born again.

Just as Jesus was conceived through a touch of God’s Holy Spirit, the human process of being born again must begin in the same way. The challenge is not just for individual followers of Jesus Christ, but also for the church. How can the church do God’s bidding if it has not been changed completely by the stable? Consider the difference in those who truly knelt before the new born Son of God. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the group of shepherds, Simeon and Anna were all transformed by the experience and the touch of the Holy Spirit on their lives (Luke 1 & 2).

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit. (John 3: 1-8 NLT)