Driving around town looking at Christmas lights has become a tradition in my family. We wrap up in warm jackets, put on our Santa hats, grab some treats and we are on our way. It’s fun to see the creative ways people decorate their homes. As we slowly cruise the neighborhoods we always find a few nativity scenes, complete with Mary, Joseph, and a baby lying in a manger.
It is always the manger that grabs my attention. A manger is simply a wooden box used to feed animals. I can’t help but ponder the significance of what it meant for that baby to be placed in such a lowly, poor-man’s idea of a crib. This baby, who is the most important thing this world has ever seen, is put in a place fit for animals because there is nowhere else. This child deserves the most glorious crib in the most glorious mansion–even that being insufficient; yet there He lay in a dull wooden box.
Why? Why does it matter that Jesus is put in a manger (surely other children in that place and time might have lain in a manger) and what significance does it have for us? It matters because this child is unlike any child born before or after Him. This child did not come into existence at His birth, but merely took upon Himself a human body and nature. The baby in the manger is God made flesh.
Yes, I recognize this is a huge claim, one many people will disagree with; however, this is the belief of Christians through the ages because it is the testimony of the Bible. And if this testimony is true, then that manger is holding your Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. What, then, is the proper response? Worship!
Every devout Jew knows that worship can only legitimately be given to God. To worship anything or anyone besides God is idolatry and in violation of the 2nd Commandment. God Himself says “My glory I will give to no other.” (Isaiah 42:8) The Apostle John, overcome with emotion when he is given great visions in the book of Revelation, responds by falling at the feet of an angel in worship. The angel quickly corrects John, saying, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you… Worship God.” (Revelation 22:9) The Apostle Peter answered likewise when he entered the house of Cornelius, who fell down at his feet to worship Peter. “Stand up; I too am a man.” (Acts 10:26) Peter could not abide anyone worshiping him in place of God. Yet Mary and Joseph say nothing when the magi come to visit the Christ child and fall on their knees to worship Him. (Matthew 2:11) If this child is not God in the flesh, then these “wise men” are actually very foolish. However, if He is, then they are doing what every soul on earth should be doing.
Jesus receives worship from many others throughout the gospels. How does Jesus react when people begin to worship Him? If He is only a great teacher or prophet, then His response should be similar to the Apostle Peter and the angel in the book of Revelation. However, because Jesus recognizes Himself to be the eternal God made flesh, accepting worship is proper and right.
On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples were in a boat when all of sudden they see Him walking on the water. Afterwards, we are told “those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:33) No rebuke from the lips of Jesus; the narrative just goes on with the assumption that Jesus accepts their worship. After Jesus’ resurrection, John recognizes that Jesus truly has risen again, proclaiming “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) The women also, after they encounter the risen Christ, take hold of His feet and worship Him. Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid…” (Matthew 28:9-10) Again, no rebuke or correction. Jesus accepts the worship that is due only to God. Why?– because He is God!
So the reason why the manger is so amazing to me is because God not only enters into His own creation to save it, but He does so in the most humble of ways. He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) This is an incredible statement. God became one of us in order to die for our sins and save us. So what is your response when you consider that baby Jesus lying in the manger? The familiar carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory” has it right as it ends each stanza with the words “Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!”
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ