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. (Luke 2:6-7)
We have here a story, we know pretty well. A census is decreed throughout the Roman Empire, and Joseph heads to Bethlehem, his hometown, taking with him, is pregnant wife – Mary.
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 room in the inn”
“She wrapped him in cloths” Swaddling cloths – normal for newborns at the time, and in fact, there seems to be a return to that in our modern day, with midwives recommending babies be swaddled in order for them to feel comfortable and safe.
So far, nothing too far out of the ordinary.
A pregnant lady gives birth – wrapping her baby in swaddling cloth.
However, what happens next, is something unheard of: Mary “placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them
Let’s pause there. There’s no crib, no bed – the new mother places her new-born infant in a box designed to feed animals.
I read this and think surely this is a mistake!
This was no ordinary baby.
This was the Saviour of the world.
Surely the son of God; God himself deserved better!
Perhaps we’ve misread this. But no – it’s nothing more; it’s nothing less than an unhygienic, crudely made box used to feed livestock.
There in a stable, on a dark crisp night, we see the creator and Sustainer of all things, Almighty God in a manger – God in a box! Right there and then, we are confronted with the Christmas mystery. The mystery of the incarnation. God allowing himself not only to be boxed in a manger, but to be boxed or limited in human flesh. Stepping out of eternity to be boxed by time.
The Shepherds out in the field, when the angels appear and declare to them the Good News of Christ’s birth, and they hurry off to go and see him! What will be the sign they are to look for?
“12 This will be a sign to you”: What would be the sign?
Not the cloths – there would be many babies wrapped in swaddling cloths in Bethlehem that night.
Rather, it was the manger that would be the distinguishing sign for the shepherds as they sought Jesus. You see, nowhere else in Bethlehem that night would there be a newborn baby – any baby for that matter – lying in a feedbox, amid the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep!
Once again, this year, this box is presented for mankind’s consideration. Again, we are called to stop, look and listen to what that manger and the Christmas Babe therein says to us.
What does that Bethlehem box tell us?
What is the message from the manger?
In a nutshell, the message from that manger is that you and I were not good enough to save ourselves; so, God needed to come to us!
That’s what we get from that Bethlehem Box.
The message from the manger is one of Salvation.
We could not get to God, so He stoops down in kindness and comes to us.
There is one thought, I want us to grasp, Dear Reader, and that dear friend, is that:
The Message from The Manger Is for You!
11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord
Two seemingly insignificant words, but really on which this story of the incarnation hinges. Because, unless the shepherds could see the meaning of the message for them, it would just be another religious story. And really religion had already written them off as unworthy outcasts. Religion had always been for others! Good news was always meant for others!
They were just lowly, humble shepherds – who did not amount to much in the eye’s others. But Guess what – that night, heaven had a different opinion!
Echoing from a box in Bethlehem via this angelic choir, they receive the message loud and clear that all that has taken place this night was not only for others but for them!
They were included in the invitation!
Friends, this Advent/Christmas season someone may be sitting here feeling like this
Christmas message of Good News of Great Joy has to be for someone else. It cannot be for me!
Could I invite you a little closer to that Box in Bethlehem, to the manger where the Baby Jesus lay!
Get a whiff of that stable air! Nothing fragrant or fancy there!
Run your fingers over the manger, and you’ll feel the splinters. Nothing posh there.
Take a glance around the room, and you’ll see men and women just like you, in need of a Saviour just like you; in need of God’s love, just like you. That’s why he came – not to the corridors of kings, or the palaces of princes, but to a manger meant for animals. That’s Immanuel – God with us! A down-to-earth-God! God in a box!
Of all the Christmas boxes that exchange hands this Christmas, none can offer what that feed box of Bethlehem did.
This year, in churches across the world, this Bethlehem Box and its message is being presented to folk once again, for their consideration. The challenge we are confronted with is this:
Do we reject the box of Bethlehem, and more importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
Or do we receive its message – one of peace, joy, forgiveness of sins, eternal life!
God of the Universe, Creator of galaxies, all powerful, all strong,
You thought it nought for my sake, to be laid in a manger;
A trough, a feed box, nothing fancy nor plush,
So that I can be drawn closer to you, a friend, no longer a stranger.