Christmas is over and preparations for the New Year have begun. I determined this year to enjoy Christmas, so I have been a bit more contemplative regarding Christmas, regardless of my desire to move into the New Year. I would be remiss to ignore the significance of not only enjoying Christmas, but in keeping Christmas all year. One iconic symbol of Christmas has resonated with me this year—the manger. There is more to this feeding trough than a makeshift cradle. What is the significance of the manger? Why a manger?
It was a cold, dark night in Bethlehem. Four-hundred years of brass heavens created a desperation for a Word from God…just one Word. The silence from God’s Throne was deafening. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, and gave not only a word, but The Word the world so desperately needed.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2: 10-14 KJV).
Easton Bible Dictionary defines Manger (Luke 2:7, 12, 16): “The name (Gr. phatne, rendered “stall” in Luke 13:15) given to the place where the infant Redeemer was laid. It seems to have been a stall or crib for feeding cattle. Stables and mangers in our modern sense were in ancient times unknown in the East. The word here properly denotes “the ledge or projection in the end of the room used as a stall on which the hay or other food of the animals of travelers was placed.”
The Lord included the manger as a sign so the shepherds would know when they arrived, that they found the child of which God spoke. This intrigues me. Why did God give the manger as a sign concerning the holy Child? Why did the Lord include the manger in this narrative?
He was laid in a manger to show that he was available to all; born in a palace only a few could access Him. He came for all mankind. He had to become a man to redeem man.
“He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was “The Son of Man.” He had left the heights of Heaven’s glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human condition at its lowest point. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.” (A.W. Pink, Why Four Gospels?)
I love the book of Isaiah; it is full of prophetic passages concerning the Messiah. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows in chapter 53; God’s Suffering Servant.
Servanthood is what resonates with me when I contemplate the manger. Jesus came to serve mankind. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe left the glory of heaven, and came to earth to serve His creation; His ungrateful, fallen, sinful, rebellious creation. We have lost all rights to be anything other than humble.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
The church needs to return to serving. Not just serving inside the four walls of the church, but serving mankind. Serving for us creatures does not always come easily. We are pulled in many directions by people who need us. We are needed by our spouses, our children, and friends. The thought of serving more is daunting—whom else do I need to give myself to? We become drained and weary of always helping others. It is easy to tire of helping everyone else, having little time for ourselves; righteous indignation is tempting. Serving is not only helping our own and others, but that we keep the right attitude and do all things to the glory of God. Serving becomes wearisome when our attitudes have turned sour; serving becomes a burden. We need a paradigm shift. We need our hearts to be renewed by Him, and to hold His posture for serving. He came to serve mankind, and we thanked Him by scourging, beating, and nailing Him to tree, yet it did not sway Him from His purpose. Make it a priority to pray every day and ask whom He needs you to serve, and like Christ take on the nature of a servant; a humble servant.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:5-9 NASB).
Christ came to serve mankind and to be all that we need. He is all we need. His humble arrival in a stable made Him accessible to all man-kind; to serve the broken, the discouraged, the discontented:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18 KJV).
I love this prose of who Christ is to man-kind. He is the Great I AM; all we need He already is…
To the artist he is the One altogether lovely (Song of Sol. 5:16); To the architect he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6); To the astronomer he is the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2); To the baker he is the Bread of life (Jn. 6:35); To the banker he is the hidden treasure (Mt. 13:44); To the builder he is the sure foundation (Isa. 28:16); To the carpenter he is the door (Jn. 10:7); To the doctor he is the great Physician (Jer. 8:22); To the educator he is the new and living way (Heb. 10:20); To the farmer he is the sower and the Lord of harvest (Lk. 10:2). (Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible).
Let’s purpose to remember the manger all year, not just at Christmas. The mystery of the manger—that Christ came as a humble servant, and would suffer to reconcile humanity to the Father. We do not have the sins of the world on our shoulder as Christ did, but we need to take on the attitude of Christ and pray for a servant’s heart. The hurting, and broken, and lost are waiting for us. Many are looking to us for help, and we need to answer their cries.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Rom. 8:19
Remember, Jesus came as a humble servant and will return soon as the King of Kings; His reward is with Him. Let Him find us faithful.