I love the manger! I have a fondness for nativity scenes that often brings out a subtle sense of worship, warmth, peace, awe, and gratitude. As a young boy, I had a basic, sentimental attachment to the manger. I loved to hide the baby Jesus until the 24th, when he could make his arrival in time for Christmas day. I knew the open space in our incomplete Nativity represented a hope that I did not fully understand as I tucked baby Jesus and his manger away in a drawer. I sensed anticipation as Christmas Eve and Day would approach knowing it would be time for baby Jesus to emerge. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, wise men, animals, and even the angel were all in place but the child was the guest of honor. He was the One who would steal the show.
Even as I remember those days fondly, I truthfully lacked a depth to my knowledge and understanding of the message of the manger. I loved our little manger scene, and truly knew there was something special about it’s story. It would be years before I discovered a deeply personal relationship with Jesus and began to hear more clearly God’s voice speaking to me from the manger. If you have ears to hear, what is that the manger tells us? What message can be heard in the story of the Nativity?
Let me share 3 declarations of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ that are proclaimed in the birth of Jesus Christ. May these messages from the manger literally “cry” to your heart so that you are never the same again.
- I love you fully and I want you to know me in a real and personal way! God didn’t just give us a book, prophets, ideologies, theologies, and creeds. Ultimately He gave us Himself. God came to the earth in the form of a man. John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul said that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In absolute selfless love, the Son of God entered human history, becoming a part of the human story so He could eventually enter and alter each one of our stories. The doctrine of the Incarnation tells us that Heaven made the most unlikely move when the Eternal Son of God laid aside the robe of his glory, and adorned himself with human flesh. No religion comes close to the beauty of Jesus. The Christian faith stands out like a Rolls Royce on a highway full of tricycles. No other faith is so personal. None are so real. Jesus brings God up close and personal. You can wrap your arms around Him, so that God can wrap His loving arms around you. The manger reveals that God became a person, and therefore it is God’s personal invitation for you to know Him in a personal way. Jesus wants you to know that He loves, and He wants a relationship with you. He came all the way from heaven to earth to make that possible. For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son…
- I am more than willing to forgive you! Forgiveness is fully available and possible. We must never forget that the manger was a rescue mission. We were lost in our sin and without hope, separated from God, under the shadow of judgment. Isaiah wrote, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6) In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul is straight forward regarding the human condition: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The sin and rebellion of humanity to the rule of God was an act of betrayal, mutiny against our Creator. We deserve absolutely nothing from God, and God owes nothing other than judgment. It makes the manger all the more remarkable. The Son of God was not born of a virgin so he could come to earth and settle the score. Jesus came so He could cancel the debt of our sin by taking our sin upon Himself. Jesus became sin in our place. While we certainly have gone astray like lost sheep, “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The angel told Joseph that the child Mary was carrying was truly from God. He told Joseph that he “will be called Jesus for He will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:22-23). The name Jesus literally means “One who saves.” That is who He is, and that is what He does. He is a wonderful Savior, for He is the only one who can save us and forgive us from all of our sin. The manger would always lead to the cross. That is why He came, and this is why we can know that our God is more than willing to forgive.
- I want you to live with me forever in heaven. The garden of Eden was home for Adam and Eve. Eden means “delight” or “paradise”. It was a place where they dwelt with God, and God walked beside them. Eden was peaceful without conflict, safe and without danger, holy and without sin, full of life and without death, full of light and without darkness, and full of purpose and meaning without chaos, confusion, and uncertainty. Due to sin, humanity forfeited their home in the presence of God, and they were escorted into the exile of a world corrupted and broken by sin. While we have so many blessings and good things to enjoy on the earth, this world has proven to be a hostile environment. People hurt one another, become addicted to substances, get sick and die., etc. Abuse, divorce, crime, murder, and betrayal all happen frequently and continually (along with so much more suffering and sin). Jesus came to lead us back home. He invites us to know Him, but also gives is an invitation to return to a place once again that is absent of everything that does not align with God’s best. Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3). He promised that there was plenty of room in His Father’s house. He said He would return for us so that we could be with him where He is. Jesus came from heaven to earth so that we could one day leave the earth and return to heaven. The manger reminds us that this world is not our true home. We were made for something better. In his book Heaven, author Randy Alcorn stated, “The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.” Has this year of 2020 with all of its COVID chaos and racial and political tension left you weary and burdened? Are there days you just long for it all to come to a conclusion and feel a little more normal? The reality is that your heart longs for more than a return to a Pre-Covid world. Your heart is actually longing for your true home – a day when there will be no more sorrow, suffering, sickness and death. Alcorn also stated in his book: “Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us.” as good as this life may ever feel or get, we must always remember that we are not home yet. The best is yet to come.
So there you have it – “Messages from the Manger!” Oh there are many to be found messages to be found – “God knows what it is like to walk in our shoes”, “God has tipped his hand regarding human value and worth by becoming a human being”, and many more. Keep listening and discovering what God says through the manger, but do not forget these three I have shared today. Let these words from the manger fill your heart and home this Christmas.
God loves you and wants you to know Him in a real and personal way! He does not want to Email, text, or Facetime you. He wants you to come face to face with Jesus!
God is more than willing to forgive you. Forgiveness is fully available and possible. Jesus paid it all and His blood cleanses us from all of our guilt and sin. Hallelujah!
God wants you live with Him in Heaven forever. Jesus is your person, and Heaven is your Home. You were made for the Person of Jesus and the place of Heaven. Hang in there! One day we will be free from the hell of this world, and at home in the presence of God!
Heavenly Father, I hear your voice loud and clear today through the messages of the manger. I hear the heart of love, and I see clearly your desire for me to know God in a very real and personal way. Jesus, I fully embrace You and I trust you to lead me to the Father. My heart cries for authentic love and true intimacy with my God. I will keep drawing closer to you, trusting You will keep drawing me closer and drawing closer to me.
Thank you for forgiveness and grace. I was helpless but you came to my rescue. I was hopeless and you gave your life for me. My sin is great, but your grace is greater! My guilt has weighed me down, but your mercy has lifted me. Through the sacrifice of my Savior, I am restored and redeemed. I was lost, and you found me. Jesus, You truly are the One who Saves.
Thank you Jesus for making Your home in my heart, and assuring me of my Home with you in heaven forever, and ever, and ever. It is more than I can imagine to spend eternity with you in a Home that is completely peaceful, safe, life-giving, holy, and alive. Help me remember that every moment of heartache and frustration on earth is simply the symptom of a home-sick heart that will one day be fully free from this sinful, broken world.
Lord, help me hold to these promises, and continually discover all of the messages from the manger. I want to hear and embrace all that Jesus is to me, and all that He has done for me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am amazed by your love and grace. I pray to you through Jesus name, the One who came from heaven to earth, so I could one day go from this earth to heaven! Amen!
Next Steps for Today:
- Sit or stand near your Nativity set, and focus on the Messages from the Manger. Talk with the Lord Jesus about these amazing promises, and let the power of His story and life fully hit home with you today. Receive the messages as truths for your heart.
- If you have children, take these messages and make them simple for them to grasp. Perhaps write a letter from Jesus to them letting them know – “This is why I came!”
- Write a letter back to Jesus in response to his messages to you. Is there a place near the manger that you can actually place these letters? If it works for you, take steps like these too bring the message to life.
- Make a commitment to find ways to share these messages from Jesus with others. Ask God to give you the strength and power to share, and to open the doors of hearts that would be willing to listen.