So, let’s admit it… it wouldn’t be everybody’s first choice. And I’m sure that if there were other options those other options would be chosen first. But, given the fact that they were rejected everywhere else, they had to make do with what they had.
I’m talking about laying the baby Jesus in a manger. I know that may not seem like much; but I think that is only because we’ve let the story become so familiar to us that we forget its awkwardness. I mean, think about it: Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in a manger! A manger is not a crib. We forget that a manger is literally a feeding trough! Sometimes we think of a manger as a crib because every year we see Jesus lying in a nice, pretty, straw-covered, little wooden stand that often looks like a crib; but a manger is not a crib. It is a container for food and water for slobbery, sloppy, farm animals eat and drink out of! Awkward! Right?
Now let’s be fair. I’m sure that was not Mary and Joseph’s first choice. And if they would have had other options they would definitely have not laid Jesus in a manger. And yet, they were forced to stay in a stable and so they had to make do with what they had. But we need to remember this: God never does anything without a reason. And awkward things in scripture always have a deeper meaning. And laying Jesus in a manger, while awkward, actually has profound meaning.
What possible meaning could laying Jesus in a feeding trough have for us? Well, it’s this: Jesus is our food… Jesus is the water of life. You see, food and water are necessities for life. If we lack food we languish and starve. If we lack water we parch and wither. Laying Jesus in a manger was a prophecy: the child born to Mary and Joseph will one day become our food and drink.
And this is exactly what happened. Jesus himself said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37). And he also said, “My flesh is true food and blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I am him” (Jn 6:55-56). You see, the life of Jesus dwelling within us is as necessary as food and water. Without Jesus’ life within us we languish and starve. We parch and wither. Jesus tells us this clearly when he says, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me… without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5).
So this Christmas, when you see Jesus lying in a manger, remember this: Jesus is our life, our food, our drink, our strength and our joy. And just as he was laid in a manger, he desires to rest in us. This is the meaning of Christmas. May you have a Very Merry Christmas!