Each year, at Christmas, before the presents are purchased and wrapped, we pull our tree and decorations from storage. For me, the careful unwrapping of each ornament is accompanied by a deluge of memories. Some are joyous, some painful, and some bittersweet. All are an irreplaceable part of my heart.
This year, I pulled out more than I had in a while, and as I began to place things around the house, I was suddenly struck with how many versions of the nativity scene that I have collected. I was surprised to note how many did not have a Joseph, or that at the very least he simply looked like one of the shepherds. Some have sheep, cattle, or donkeys. Some have the wise men’s camels, and some have angels. The only thing, which they all have in common is Mary and the Baby Jesus in the manger.
There was a time when school Christmas plays portrayed a child Mary and a swaddled baby doll for the love and adoration of all. Sadly, that is no longer true, as atheists attempt to block God from the minds of children. Yet, even children who have never been to church a day in their life somehow hear about and love that baby in a manger.
Last week, in our Sunday school lesson, we talked about the divinity of the baby Jesus. He was born all God and all man. Not half-God and half-man, which is about the limit of what our human minds can fathom.
My notes said that He had to be born of a virgin, so that He could be fully man, but not be compromised by the sinful nature we have all inherited from Adam. He had to be fully man so that he could relate to us. He also had to be fully God. Otherwise he was just a man and no better off than we are.
But really, I wondered, is it splitting hairs to worry about the terminology? I believe that God looked down from heaven, saw how much we needed fixing, decided to repair the eternal relationship He created us for, and came down to do something about it Himself. He became that baby in the manger for us.
Christians really love that baby in the manger, don’t we? He is the reason for the season, after all. We celebrate the birth of that baby. We retell the miraculous story of that baby. We quote verses about that baby. Some of us even collect items portraying that baby. We really love that baby in the manger.
We love Him so much, that we have managed to trap Him in that manger. We have divided His miracle into stages. We put Him away at the end of the Christmas holiday and dust him off for a second or two, just before we hang Him on the cross between Good Friday and Easter.
For many people of this world, including Christians, Jesus is either the Savior on the cross or the baby in the manger. But between the extremes of His story, there was an important, amazing life. A life He lived for love of us.
Jesus, our Savior, is the Son of God. He left Heaven and was born a man for us. Birth is painful, frightening, and traumatizing for a baby. He went through that because He loves us.
He grew from childhood to adulthood. We know little about those years. We do know that even though His mother did not fully understand who He was, He did, because He was “about His Father’s business” at an early age. He grew up poor, in a place that many Bible scholars compare to the modern day, crime ridden slums of Chicago. He did that because He loved us.
In the body of a man, He prayed in the garden, accepted God’s will and took on the sins of the world. The unimaginable pain and stress of that event would have been too much for a mere man. Still, He sweat blood and He literally had to be supported by angels just to get through it. He went through that because He loved us.
He was beaten until blood flowed from painful lesions. His eyes stung and He was nearly blinded by drops of blood which trickled from around the pointed thorns of a mock crown pushed down on His head. At Mount Calvary, He was nailed on a wooden cross. Each blow of the hammer sent vibrations of excruciating pain through His wrists and ankles. When He grew weaker and could no longer hold His body up, His lungs collapsed, and He began to drown as they filled with fluid. It was an agonizing way to die. He went through all of that because He loved us.
And we love Him. We love that baby in the manger. And we should. Knowing full well what He must endure, He left His throne in heaven and came to lay in that manger for us. But we must not leave Him there. He is so much more than a baby in a manger. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Eternal King. And someday, that baby in the manger will return to take us home with Him.
Kim Marie Johnson
Marie is an ordained minister. She is an author, artist, and designer. Marie enjoys teaching and speaking. Most important to her are her relationship with God, her three children and five grandchildren who inspire her every second of every day.