In this Advent season we have considered “The Miracle of the Moment,” “The Miracle of the Method,” and “The Miracle of the Meaning.” Today, let’s consider the event of Christmas itself as we look at “The Miracle of the Manger.”
You do understand that there is nothing special about mangers. They are simply containers from which livestock are fed. The dictionary definition of “manger” is as follows: “a trough or open box in a stable designed to hold feed or fodder for livestock.” Every barnyard or animal shelter has such a device.
But the Christmas Manger takes on new significance not because of what it was, but because of who used it.
Insignificant items take on value because of who uses them. For example,
• Marilyn Monroe’s legendary sheer, crystal-emblazoned dress, which she wore in May 1962 to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy, sold at auction for a record-breaking $4.8 million,
• The Smithsonian announced in 2016 that it needed to raise $300,000 to restore Dorothy’s Ruby Red shoes from the Wizard of Oz movie.
• Babe Ruth’s home run ball in the 1933 MLB All-Star Game sold for over $800,000. …
• Hank Aaron’s 755th home run ball sold for $650,000 at auction in 1999.
And we could recount many more examples of things that in and of themselves have no great value but because of who used them or who wants them, their value is multiplied astronomically!
And then there was the manger in Bethlehem. In 1996 I was privileged to visit the traditional site of the nativity scene at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. After our guide took us through various passageways we found ourselves in a limestone cave where we were told that animals had been sheltered in the cold winter months. One spot in the cave wall was a hollowed out indention that claimed to have been the place where the baby Jesus was placed. It was just a hole in the side of a cave where feed was placed for cattle. But it has become a place highly treasured because one night a small baby found a place to lay shortly after its birth. And it wasn’t just any baby—it was the Baby Jesus. Now thousands of pilgrims visit that spot not because of what it is, but because of who is said to have been there. A hole in the wall of a cave has been transformed into a place that is priceless—It is the Miracle of the Manger made possible by the Presence of Jesus.
Let’s give some thought to this Manger Miracle this morning…
I. THE MANGER BECAME THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH GOD ENTERED OUR WORLD.
a. The Apostle John said it this way: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…” (John 1:14a). Luke said this way: “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: 7).
b. Gateway entryways are often spiced up to look grand. Sometimes they feature archways, sometimes impressive columns with rot-iron Gates. Some entryways have long winding driveways lined with beautiful shrubby or flowers or trees. Even old farmhouses often had picket fences and swinging gates. All these entryways have the purpose of saying something about what is to follow.
c. But what does a cattle manger or a stable for livestock have to say about God’s entry into the world?
II. THE MANGER REMINDS US OF THE WILLINGNESS OF GOD TO STOOP TO OUR LEVEL.
a. From King of kings to a baby born in a stable—from the highest of heights to the lowest of low, God entered our world in Jesus! Just how far would you stoop in order to identify with another person?
b. Stories abound from history of Kings and noblemen who disguised themselves as commoners so they could mingle among their people and learn the problems and realities of life outside the castle. But, being God, He had full knowledge of life as a human–after all, He created us and He is the all-knowing One.
c. God didn’t become human so He could learn what humans are like—God became human so humans could find out what God is like! He started out as a baby, so every age could identify with Him. He started out in the stable so that those who are homeless or helpless could know that God cares about them.
d. The manger was a cradle of love—the infinite love of a God whose love is unconditional. He loves us no matter how far we have sunk in this world and no matter how worthless we may feel. Remember our worth like that of the manger is not found in ourselves—our worth comes from being expressions of His creativity and objects of His love!
III. THE MANGER WAS THE BEGINNING OF A JOURNEY TO THE CROSS.
a. Someone has rightly said that from the moment we are born we are moving towards our death. God’s Word in Hebrews 9:27 tells us,
“… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” And we know that Jesus came into the world to offer himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all the world. Many Bible verses point this out. For example:
“21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” New Living Translation We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
And Jesus himself is quoted in Matthew 20:28 as saying, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
b. Artists over the centuries have often painted various scenes from the life of Christ with the Shadow of the Cross being apparent. Jesus was born to die. But His death was not just another death. As the sinless Lamb of God His death was a sacrifice to pay a debt we could not pay. It was the redemption price to purchase our freedom, the ransom price to secure our release from the control of Satan.
So, on this Christmas Eve, while we celebrate the birth of Christ, we also commemorate the death of Christ. It is altogether fitting that we partake of the Lord’s Supper as we remember the reason Jesus entered the World.