And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:7
Most of us have a manger scene. They come as small as tree ornaments and as big as blow-up lawn decorations. Every year we are amazed by the beautiful and romanticized art of this birth. Maybe if we stopped calling it a manger scene, but instead an “animal feeding trough scene,” we might remember its significance and lack of earthly beauty.
Our holy and perfect God, our eternal and all-powerful King, made himself nothing. He came to empty himself of all the appearance of the almighty God that he could be born to a lowly virgin in a little town called Bethlehem. Because of Caesar Augustus’ decree, that little town was overcrowded by one of the biggest “family reunions” in history. So much so that no one could even make a single room for the visibly pregnant Mary. When the time came, Mary gave birth to the one through whom all things were made. She wrapped the Prince of Peace in simple cloths instead of a royal robe. She placed the Word made flesh in a manger, an animal feeding trough, because they found no kingly crib on which to lay his head.
That little Lord Jesus would grow and become strong. He would be filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. But life did not get easier for him. The devil and the world wanted nothing to do with him. They wanted him dead and gone forever. Jesus was beaten, flogged, and nailed to a tree until dead, seemingly gone forever. But he is not gone. His lowly death was in place of our eternal death. His resurrection now gives us life.
At that manger scene, we see how God sent our Lord Jesus to be near us and to stay close by us forever. He loves and blesses all his dear children in his tender care. He will take us to heaven to live with him there. There is not a lowly feeding trough or simple cloths waiting for you in heaven, but a royal room prepared for you and robes of righteousness ready to be wrapped around you forever.
O Jesus Christ, your manger is my paradise at which I am reclining. For there, O Lord, we find the Word made flesh for us— your grace is brightly shining. Amen. (CW 342:1)
Rev. Philip Schroeder serves Martin Luther College as an instructor and dormitory supervisor.