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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Wednesday, December 22

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
—Luke 2:7

Having sold more than 65 million copies, The Catcher in the Rye has managed to remain a teenage favorite since its publication in 1951. Following close behind it would be A Separate Peace, Flowers for Algernon, and The Outsiders, all of which are now more than 30 years old. 

What has kept these books so popular despite waves of cultural change is their common theme of alienation: somehow different from his peers, the main character experiences life as an outsider, a feeling most adolescents of any time can share.

Their status as “outsiders” is part of what draws us to the story of Mary and Joseph as well. Something in us likes not only the fact that she was young, unmarried, and pregnant, but also that he, though clueless, stuck by her side to the end. 

Underdogs, as we might call them today, Mary and Joseph stir our sympathies, particularly when we read of their failure to find any room in the inn. The manger and stable may look quaint on Christmas cards, but this sanitized version is incredibly far from the truth. Dank, dirty, and full of animal smells—this is where the Son of God was born.

Jesus, too, was an outsider, and he never tried to be anything else. He knew that what he had to say would disturb the status quo; he knew, also, that given an opportunity, the “insiders” would drive him out of their midst. All of us, even those long past the teenage years, know what it’s like to feel isolated and alone. The story of Jesus’ birth reminds us that God knows this condition as well.

O God, when I begin to feel the burden of my own solitude, help me to remember that no human pain is foreign to you, and that no human pain is past healing.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.