It is Christmas and my last post in connection with the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I find myself staring at my screen of my computer contemplating the posts I have written. I stare at this picture of a manger. I read that shepherds would wrap a lamb destined for temple sacrifice in swaddling cloths and place it in the same type of contraption that held the One Who was born to die for each and all of us. The significance of this possibility is intriguing.
The more I learn, the more I take a step back and look at more than one piece of a picture that still hasn’t been completely pieced together, the more I see. It is just a whole lot of seeing. Seeing a man having to drag his pregnant betrothed wife into an overflowing town for a census. A town so full that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords had to be born in a barn, a stable. Mary had to hunker down with Joseph in a stable full of animals. Next to the donkeys, the cows, the goats, the sheep, the who knows what else, standing, sleeping, eating beside her as she gave birth. As this momentous, life altering, soul changing Child was coming into the world it was happening in the least likely place you would look for the King.
How much money do we spend on cribs and clothes for our babies today? It is a lot, let me tell you, it is a whole lot. And what did Mary and Joseph have for Jesus? A manger and strips of cloth. I wanted the actual, literal, definitive definition for manger. You know what it said? Manger: a long box or trough for horses or cattle to eat from.
Mary and Joseph had to put their God given Gift and responsibility in a box that animals ate out of. Seriously. It sounds just so cute, right? Probably not, and smelly too.
From humble beginnings to a brutal end.
It is Christmas. It is cheery and there are trees and presents, stockings and cookies. It is supposed to be the absolute best holiday ever. And it is, and yet, it is also so much more than just a special holiday.
It is the beginning. It is His beginning as Jesus the man, on this spinning ball of crazy. It is everything and only a piece all at once.
He was born in a stable and placed in a manger. He was acknowledged and worshipped first by lowly shepherds. He grew and was honored as King by three wise men. He was raised by a mother and a father. He followed in the footsteps of the man who cared for Him as his own son, becoming a carpenter. Like all the rest of the story, how often do we gloss over, simplify and prettify the story that has so much more to offer.
Staring at this manger, I am left in poignant silence. I see a feeding trough, a bed for a baby. I see His beginning, His childhood, His family, His friends, His choices. Ultimately, I see a cross but most of all a stone rolled away.
From humble beginnings He came and reaching out His nailed scarred hands offered us life. From the rich to the poor, the sick to the healthy, the pious to the humble, every walk you could walk, every talk you could talk. All of us.
The picture is intricate, delicate, hardy, touching, scary, heartbreaking. The whole Old Testament led to it and the New Testament built around it.
Everything we are, we owe entirely to Him. A baby born in a stable, placed in a manger. A Man without sin, Who was crucified for our sin, is and will always be the One, the only Way, the Truth and the Life.
Our Savior. Our Jesus. Our Messiah.
This Christmas, I pray that none of us truly forgets Who we are living for. Our purpose is to do all for the glory of God. Our purpose is to serve and to honor and to follow where He leads. He came for us. He died for us. He lives for us. He waits to welcome us home.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.