“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)
That the King of the universe would come as a baby is overwhelming. The great I AM present in the child placed in a manger (Luke 2:7), a sign to the shepherds that God had come to earth to redeem His people (2:10-12). Because of His inconceivable grace, the Father became flesh and lived among humanity (John 1:14); the child was called Immanuel, for God was living among His people (Matthew 1:23).
The manger reminds us that Jesus was fully human and a person whose home was not in this world. He had no place to lay His head as an adult (Matthew 8:20) and both His first crib and His final resting place were borrowed (John 19:41). His creation would reject Him (John 1:10-11) and His opponents would seek to kill Him, both as an infant (Matthew 2) and as an adult (John 11:49-53). Yet His death on the cross was the reason He was placed in a manger: He was sent to redeem us!
We fail to see the Christ of Christmas if we do not see the manger at the foot of the cross. Christmas was always in God’s heart! Although we don’t know the exact day Jesus was born, the Father had circled a date long before Jesus slept in a manger. We are told that Jesus “was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). So that Jesus could save us from our sins, He had to enter the human race and live a sinless life in order to die on the cross for our salvation.
The manger is all about a loving Savior, whose head was cradled in His mother’s arms at birth and held the same way at His death. The Bethlehem cradle testifies to the presence of God, for He came to earth to be with us, the same One who is in our midst (Matthew 18:20) and will be with us forever (28:20). Once in Sunday school we discussed a way to remember Christmas all year round. It was suggested that when we pack away our nativity set, we keep the manger on our mantle. This is a great reminder of what Christmas is all about.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may our remembering Your birth be more than simply a time of enjoying the holidays; may it be an acknowledgment of the amazing fact that we are known and loved by You. Thank you, Jesus, for it is in Your Name we pray, amen.
submitted by Dr. Rich Menninger, retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion