Sunday, December 2, 2007

God in a Manger

As we approach the annual climax of American materialism, it would be good for us to look more closely at "the reason for the season." Most Americans have at least a basic understanding of the events of Christmas morning. We all know how Mary and Joseph ended up in Bethlehem, and we know all about the angels, shepherds, and wise men, but we don't think too much about the baby – what it was like for Him or His life before that manger.

Isaiah wrote: "In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted .... Above him were seraphsa ... and they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’”1

Before Bethlehem, Jesus spent his time surrounded by the adoration He was due, but "though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, ... becoming like men."2 Jesus gave up the glory of God and entered this world – His birth attended by livestock instead of angels.

When He stepped into our world, the God who said, "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills"3 was suddenly penniless. The maker of the universe grew up in a poor family4 to become a homeless5 wanderer dependent on the charity of others.6

When you see that little baby in the manger, remember that was God Almighty who gave up all that was rightfully His to become a poor, vulnerable human destined to be despised, ridiculed, tortured, and eventually killed.

It seems so incredible that Jesus gave up everything in exchange for what awaited Him here. What could have been that important to Him? The answer: us.

Jesus summed up his mission like this: "The Son of Man came to save what was lost."7

Isaiah went into a little more detail: "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, … and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”8

He went through all that "so grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life"9 which is "the gift of God ... in Christ Jesus."10 A gift offered freely to all – regardless of race, sex, or past – that is received simply by faith. Jesus said, "he who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, relies on, and has faith in Me] has (now possesses) eternal life."11

For all He gave up, for all He went through, and for all He offers us we celebrate His birth.

Because of all this, that baby in the manger is called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."12

You may also be interested in Should We Celebrate Christmas? part 1 and part 2

a – a kind of angel

1 – Isaiah 6:1-3
2 – Phil 2:6-7 TLB
3 – Psalm 50:10
4 – Luke 2:24, c.f., Lev. 12:8
5 – Matt 8:20
6 – Luke 8:3
7 – Matt 18:11, c.f., Luke 19:10
8 – Is 53:4-6
9 – Rom 5:21
10 – Rom 6:23
11 – John 6:47 Amp
12 – Isaiah 9:6

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