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Away in a Manger

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:6,7 NLT) This familiar scene captured by nativity sets is one of my favorite parts of Christmas decorations. Every Christmas, I place a cherished nativity scene by my front door. I unwrap each piece with a smile remembering when my children eagerly helped me put it on display. There are camels, sheep, cows, Magi, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and of course, baby Jesus. He was always the favorite figurine and the last one to be placed in the stable. After baby Jesus was in his spot, we talked about the true meaning of Christmas.

I never really stopped to think about the significance of Jesus being born as a human baby. Why did God send his son to be born as a baby? Why not send him as he will come the second time. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout…” (I Thessalonians 4:16 NLT) Wouldn’t that have been more convincing?

The people of Nazareth certainly had a hard time believing in him. “They asked, ‘Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’ They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” (Mark 6: 2b-3 NLT) Jesus was too ordinary for them. They knew he was the firstborn son of their neighbor.

If Jesus had come from heaven with a commanding shout, all the earth would have known of his arrival, instead of just some lowly shepherds. He would have come with power and majesty. When he performed his miracles, people would have had an easier time believing he came from his Father in heaven. Even the religious leaders might have taken him more seriously.

And that is one reason, God sent him as a little helpless baby. If the religious leaders had believed in him, they would not have sent him to the cross. Jesus had to go to the cross. Even though God’s plan might have seemed backward, he knew exactly what he was doing. Jesus could only come in victory after he defeated sin and death for us.

The other less obvious reason which proved to be a stumbling block to some, Jesus was just like them. Jesus is just like me. And that is the point. How could he empathize with my every weakness, if he had not been born as a babe? “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NLT) Jesus gets me. Jesus went through every phase of life that I go through (with the exception of old age). Jesus experienced all the same temptations that I encounter. He understands how cruel life can be, how disappointing relationships can be, how my body of sin is tempted, and how I long to be loved and valued.

This Christmas seeing baby Jesus lying in a manger brings me new encouragement and hope. The nativity will remind me of my High Priest who understands all my frailties. He knowingly intercedes for me with the Father because he gets me.

I pray that you will have a truly blessed Christmas dwelling on the best gift the Father could ever give us. A baby boy born of a virgin away in a manger so long ago.

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