Friday, December 23, 2022

The Manger

When I was growing up, it did not dawn on me that nativity scenes were at attempt to take several biblical events which may span over a two year period and compress them into one single scene.  Why?  As I understand it, the original reason for putting together a nativity scene in the 13th century was for a visual teaching tool to tell the story of Jesus.  In light of the fact that a larger portion of the population would have been illiterate, it makes sense to use this method as a teaching tool.

I have been spending time reflecting on the manger.  I prefer the word, “manger” because “feeding trough” sounds too crude.  Yet, this is exactly what it was.  Was it made of wood, or stone, which would have been more typical of that time?  I think a more important thing to consider is that this was not something that was designed to be a baby bed.  The one whom Gabriel said would be called, “holy” and “The Son of the Most High” who would sit on the throne of his father David in a kingdom that would have no end, did not have a bed of his own.  One might expect a royal birth to take place in a palace with a monogramed bed.  But this is not how God chose to come into the world.  

I am sure that Mary, in her motherly care, made the manger clean and suitable with whatever bedding she had in order to properly care for this precious baby.  It may have looked as nice and inviting as we see in many of the nativity scenes due to her attentiveness as a good mother.  However, it was still not a baby bed.

This reminds me of something Jesus said during his ministry.  In Luke 9:57, someone told Jesus that he would follow him wherever he went.  I am not sure what type of life this man thought he was volunteering for, but Jesus made it clear what it would look like to follow him.  Jesus responded with, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Where was the palace of the Messianic King?  Where was his bed chamber?  Where was his royal pillow?  It was nowhere on earth.  Unlike wild animals that have their dens, he had nowhere to lay his head.  This was foreshadowed on the day he was born.  Even in his birth, there was no permanent place to lay his head.  He had to be laid in a manger.  Throughout his life, there continued to be nowhere to lay his head.  Even in his death, there was nowhere to lay his head.  Joseph Arimathea provided a place for Jesus to lay his head in death.  But he did not need a permanent place to lay his head in death.  He wasn’t there very long.  In three days, he sat up and walked out of that tomb, never to return.

Once he completed his ministry, he went back to his true home, which is with the Father in Heaven.  This world was not his home, he was just passing through.  The same is true for us.  When we follow Jesus, we have no permanent place to lay our head on this earth, whether in life or in death.  Our home is Heaven.  Think about these things the next time you see a manger and use it to tell the story of Jesus.