The Squalor and the Saviour - A Story of Contrasts

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”
John 1:14

This Christmas I’ve been particularly struck by thinking about the very wild fact that at this time of year we are remembering the historical event when the creator of the universe, all powerful and incomprehensibly vast, was literally birthed by an impoverished teenage girl in rural modern-day-Palestine. Just take a little second to let that sink in - this is not just an ordinary heart-warming ‘festive’ story!

The huge contrasts throughout the whole event are incredibly stark - he was heralded by the astonishing and glorious sight of thousands of angels singing, yet he was born in a shed purposed for ‘unclean’ livestock. He was visited both by highly regarded, wealthy scholars and lowest-of-the-low shepherds, freshly covered in the dirt associated with their occupation. Even the presents he received from those wise men spoke of seemingly opposing ideals - gold and frankincense signifying the kingship and divinity of the baby, and myrrh to foretell of his suffering and death.

We see throughout the rest of Jesus’ life that he wasn’t quite the type of messiah that everyone had imaged from all the prophesies that came before him - he wasn’t there to liberate the Jews from the tyranny of Roman rule and rarely aligned himself with the executive religious crew, preferring the company of society’s outcasts. But this was clear from the start - this king was not born in a palace or born with an influential family name; it was much more like poverty than royalty.

These apparent contrasts are not only interesting facets that paint a vivid picture of what went down but they also reinforce the miraculous and glorious truth of what we know to be true of Jesus - that he was born both fully God and fully man. Not half-and-half, not some sort of Greek-mythological demigod but fully divine and fully human. As such, Jesus is uniquely positioned to stand in the gap between humanity and God. Paul writes in Romans 8:34 that Jesus is now sat at the right hand of the Father actively interceding and pleading for us. He came to Earth and was born as a vulnerable human baby to draw us back into wonderful friendship with our creator.

That’s the crux of this story - Immanuel, holy God, entering the mess of humanity. Heaven reaching out to us in the midst of chaos and rebellion. It’s beautiful and it’s outrageous. It’s very good news.

Reflecting on these truths, I wrote ‘The Squalor and the Saviour’ to try and capture some of the wonder of those events some 2000 years ago. The lyrics are below:

In the still and calm,
Through the hallowed night
Underneath a winter sky
Came the promised king
Not in palace courts
But a filthy stable floor

Holy night when worlds collided
Love eternal chose a form
Flesh and blood with heaven united
In a humble manger born
Oh the wonder of that moment
Human birth met the divine
The squalor and the saviour
The baby that was God

As he opened his eyes for the first time
All of nature held its breath
For this tiny child wrapped in swaddling cloth
Was the hope for all mankind

Glory to the one above
Peace on earth and heaven’s love
So join the angels’ thunderous song
In proclaiming Christ has come 




Josh Gauton

Worship Leader & Creative Director // Worship Central