Story has it my grandmother, born this very day almost a hundred years ago, was born in a barn. It was so cold that night, the pail of water they had nearby was frozen. I faintly remember her telling me the story when I was a child. I think long and hard about that arrival, the second daughter, to be followed by a son.

No matter where a person gets started, there’s really no telling where they’re going.

I don’t know the story of my grandfather, the one who gave my Dad his last name and not much else. They married young, she was pregnant fast and it was just too much. My six month old Dad — I’ve read letters that he was bright-eyed, happy and brown as a berry. That’s a complement in the South. Whatever he was, it wasn’t enough for his Dad to stay.

He took off, wrote letters here and there, sent a gift here and there, but started a new family halfway across the country. I met him for the first time, and felt incredibly uncomfortable, at age 12. My Dad picked me up from school to have lunch with him. I don’t remember asking many questions, except if I could go and get my peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the car.

Sometimes Dads don’t stick around.

Enough times it happens, that some call it an epidemic for this generation: Fatherlessness. They say it’s at the root of so many other issues, and I agree: Men who choose not to be present, not to be fathers, to children that are rightfully theirs.

But there’s another story.

There’s this other barn — this place where the animals stayed, 2,000 years ago and halfway around the world.

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I imagine him there, holding the hand of this frightened young girl, who understands something miraculous is happening and she is a part of the story — but does he really know? When the shepherds arrive? When the Wise Men bring gifts? Does he see the star, too?

What will become of this baby, born in a barn?

No matter where a person gets started, there’s really no telling where they’re going.

This was a place where a man decided to do the opposite of what so many do — he said, “This baby isn’t mine. But I’ll stay, I’ll be present. I’ll be the father here on earth.”

From the very beginning, this is the Gospel that turns our upside down world rightside up.

In a world where fewer and fewer men are staying when they should, God’s story shows a man of character who stands in the gap and stays, when the world might say he shouldn’t.

In a world where teen pregnancy is a hushed and shushed troublesome issue, God chooses to birth Someone miraculous.

I wonder what rumors floated around. And I wonder — if this couple was from Bethlehem, did they have no family there still to stay with? Or were the people there unwilling to welcome them in? An indictment in a culture so renowned for hospitality, what was at the root of this — the woman about to have a baby being given room at the barn?

He was born in a tiny corner of the Roman Empire, which stretched further than it ever had before, or has since, so that it was called Terraram orbis imperium — the Empire of the Whole Earth.

This is the story for the whole Earth, turning rightside up the upside down ways of the whole earth.

Giving fathers to the fatherless.

Did he come from wealthy parents? Would the shepherds find him in the finest home in Bethlehem wearing the nicest robes a baby could wear? No — he arrived to parents so poor they could not afford to make room for themselves, promptly wrapped in swaddling cloths, perhaps best translated as torn and tattered rags, with a feeding trough for a crib.

Was he born into a reigning kingdom? No — to a people, now recently subjugated to Roman rule, so that he was rather less like a citizen and rather more like a subject of whom tribute would be required.

Not even born in the great city of Jerusalem, where the kings of Judea long presided? No — in humble Bethlehem, The House of Bread, comes the Bread of Life. From the City of David, as it was also known, from the lineage of David, came the humble servant who is the King of Kings.

Jesus — the name means God saves. Emmanuel — God with us.

God is with us — and He saves.

And nothing about the story seems like the story most of the world would write for the arrival of the King of Kings.

In fact, it mostly seems like the opposite.

We craned our necks to see what Kate might be wearing on her wedding day, the day she became royalty. And the magazines follow the little prince George. What is he wearing, where is he traveling? What a glorious future awaits an earthly future king!

But this is the story of the King who left all the perfection of heaven to come to a humble birth on Earth. A peasant, a tribute and tax paying subject. A babe the world wouldn’t make room for. Who came not to be served but to serve.

This upsidedownrightsideup story is just so beautiful — so gloriously different from what the world expected, which makes it infinitely better.

You might still be hustling and bustling with gift lists and parties — your list longer than a strand of Christmas lights, filled with things to do.

But know that the Savior of the world came to do the things we couldn’t: and we can rest in the receiving of this, our Greatest Gift.

The striving can cease. That most important, eternal thing that needed doing has already been done.

Let Him whisper words of rest to your hearts today friends. In the stilling and the listening, you’re being the people who make room for the most unlikely King.