The baby Jesus, long awaited, much anticipated, greeted with angelsong and starlit glory, was born, and they laid Him in ... a manger?
The first few weeks after he was born, Kachi's bed was adorably unorthodox. He slept at the foot of our bed, cozily swaddled in a blanket, lying in a drawer. I'd bought him a Moses-basket, but he was so long when he was born that he filled it, head to toe. So we turned a drawer into his bed - lined it with blankets made by his grandmothers, wrapped him warm, kissed his head, and tucked him in. He slept soft and comfy, and it made no difference to him at all that the drawer wasn't built for that purpose.
I imagine that the baby, Jesus, knew no discomfort in a bed of sweet hay, warm and well-fed and wrapped for sleep. But it kind of stabs at the heart, doesn't it, and at first glance makes me think that His arrival was so eagerly anticipated but so inadequately prepared for. I guess I always attributed it to the fact that Mary was in Bethlehem when He came, not in her own home, nowhere near the comforts and conveniences she might have planned for Him.
But God knew exactly where He would be born. So why not have a soft cradle nearby? Why a manger?
I think the symbol is awesome.
It's said that the stables of Bethlehem were used for the keeping of temple sheep. So the manger where Jesus was laid? That was where the flock found their food. Where God's sheep were nourished.
He came as our Hero, our Saviour, our King. But He came to be the bread of life - to lay down His life - for the sheep. His body, His life, laid down for our blessing.
The gnawing emptiness that aches, the dullness of prolonged hunger, it can tear at a heart as well as a belly. We were made to contain more, and greater, than anything we can find here.
You know it deep and true, don't you - there are some hungers that a meal won't satisfy. There are some longings that can never be met by the gifts under the tree. But Jesus? He is the nourishment that fills and satisfies the soul. Here He is, the heart of Christmas: behold the babe, lying in a manger.
This Christmas, I pray you will find yourself worshiping the Newborn King - feasting and satisfied and filled with joy in His presence.
God bless you, friend.