I am like the manger

Have you ever noticed how Jesus changes things? Today’s passage is Luke 2:6-7.

 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

There are all sorts of practical applications to make of this, but the one that sticks out this morning is the manger again.

I mean, it was just a dirty, stinky, smelly manger. Probably rough. Maybe made of wood or stone. The stable was definitely filthy, and so was the manger I’m sure. But in a matter of moments, it went from something ugly and filthy to the bed of a King.

But that’s what Christ does with all of us. We start out common and broken, but when He comes into our lives, He transforms us into something else. His family.

He takes the broken pieces of our lives and weaves them together into an amazing tapestry. And the parts of us that are ugly become our most beautiful features. And when we used to be wretched and miserable, we can say now that we have hope and life and joy, even on the worst days and in the most difficult circumstances.

That’s transformation. That’s taking something that was and turning it into something else. That’s what happened to that dirty, smelly manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. And that’s what happened in my life when Christ became my friend.

It’s a really simple thought this morning, but it’s also kind of deep, I guess. Just to think that all of us are just like the manger Christ slept His first night in.

So this is brief because it’s simple. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but every time I look at a manger now, I can honestly say that I’m the same way it is. Where once it was just a piece of furniture in barn, now it’s famous. It’s on everyones’ yards and Christmas cards and mantlepieces and bookshelves.

I’m not famous, obviously. But I am a new person, thanks to Christ. And He has transformed my life into something He can use.

And if that isn’t a happy thought on the frigid first day of winter, I don’t know what is.

The manger as an offensive weapon?

Christmas time is coming. It’s going to get here much sooner than we think, and in some ways I’m glad. It’s been a crazy year, and I’m looking forward to a break.

Christmas is such an interesting season because it’s the time in America when the whole country has an identity crisis. Everybody celebrates just about (except for some “Christians,” strangely enough) but nobody seems to remember what they are celebrating for. Most of the traditions are intact — the gift giving, the tree decorating, the house lights, the generosity, the songs — but nobody really thinks about why.

Probably because the why is offensive.

That all being said, I’m not one of those militant Merry-Christmasers who scorns people who choose to say “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” I do tend to shy away from Season’s Greetings because no holiday is about the solstice, but that’s my personal take on it. (I find it ironic that “Happy Holidays” is acceptable even though the etymology of the word holiday stems from the phrase “holy day” and was used to identify days devoted to God.)

People get offended about everything nowadays. So I don’t really understand why we all have to scramble to avoid it. People who are going to take offense to something and make a big stink about it will do it whether others try not to offend them or not. Some people thrive on being offended.  

And during this really strange time of year, it’s very interesting to me that the main source of offense in our culture is a little baby in a manger. Granted, here in the Wichita area, we don’t see as much trouble with it. Many folks display a nativity scene out of tradition without knowing what it means. And many folks don’t have a problem with it. Wichita is a very “tolerant” city for the most part. And everyone is fine with everyone else believing what they want to believe — until they start forcing their “truth” on everyone else.

Christmas Carols haven’t been outlawed yet, so that’s something. I get the sense that it’s coming, though. How much longer will the general public allow us to sing about worshipping Christ in their faces?

Honestly, though, the manger isn’t that scary anymore. Mainly because Christians themselves don’t really take it seriously. The only threat from a manger is if someone throws it at your head.

And while I don’t believe that Christians should be militant about these things, I do think we need to have some backbone. And I’m as guilty about this as anyone because I tend to be a people pleaser. But let’s get real, folks. Christmas is about Christ. We wouldn’t have Christmas without Christ. Without Christ, there would be the winter solstice and that’s it. And the only thing to celebrate there is that the days start getting longer again on the long trek to the vernal equinox.

And if people take offense to the little baby in the manger, how will they react to Jesus the God-Man? Because He isn’t a baby in a manger anymore. Many of us Christians want to keep Him there because as offensive as He was as an infant, as a Man who was also God, His offensiveness increased exponentially.

The baby in the manger has been reduced to a Precious Moments figurine set. But that baby in the manger grew up to communicate today’s verse in John 14:16.

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Jesus — the only way to heaven, the only truth, the only life.

That is truly offensive to people who think they’re good enough already. Or to people who trust in men or men’s religions to get to heaven. Jesus rips the rug out from underneath them.

And while I don’t believe in militantly shoving this down people’s throats, this is the truth. Because the Bible — and history, if you really study it — will demonstrate that Jesus is who He said. Because no one else in history has made the claims that He made, which makes Him a lunatic or a liar otherwise. He was neither of those, so the only explanation is that He’s Lord.

But you can’t make people believe that. I can tell you all day long that my brother is the smartest person you’ve ever met, but until you meet him in person, you won’t really believe me. It’s the same with Christ. And if we really want people to know Jesus, Christians, we have to present Him as someone they want to know. But I’m not convinced that most people who say they believe in Christ really know him. Many Christians keep Him in the manger because as a baby, He’s not a threat.

As the God-Man, Jesus threatens people who say they believe in Him. He forces us outside what we are comfortable believing. He forces us beyond what we can wrap our heads around. He forces us to look Him in the face and really consider how we are living our lives because most of us are so caught up in the world, we don’t know what really matters. But in the end, even though we are forced to face the truth, it’s still our choice to believe it and it’s still our choice to live it.

So this Christmas season, what are you going to do with Jesus? Are you going to leave Him in the manger? Or are you going to accept the truth of what He says and Who He is?