The True Meaning of Christmas (as told by the Manger)

True Meaning of Christmas
(as told by the Manger)

Hi, my name is
Mannie. I am a feed trough, what some people might call a manger. Yes that’s
right, a manger. You may have heard of me before. My family and I go way back.
We have been feeding animals for many generations. The work of a feed trough is
– sorry, I will use the word manger seeing it is Christmas. The
work of a manger is a thankless task. We give, give, give but never receive
anything in return. Well, that’s not entirely true. Cows are especially good at
giving, but usually just their saliva and drool. Occasionally a horse might
drop some of its food as it chews. Donkeys!  Now don’t get me started on donkeys……

Anyway. Today’s
topic is “The True Meaning of Christmas” and I have been asked to share my
story with you. Before I start I just want to say that I am saddened by how the
world has distorted the reality of Christmas and has turned it into nothing
more than a holiday and an excuse to get drunk or to make money. Even people
who are atheists say they celebrate Christmas without understanding or
appreciating its significance, or even believing in the person whose birthday
they supposedly celebrate.

Lately, however,
people have been saying – we need to go back to the true meaning of Christmas.
“At last!”, I think to myself, but only to be disappointed once more when I
discover that their definition of the true meaning of Christmas
is to do good and give people gifts. These are admirable things in their own
right as the Bible itself in 1st Peter 3:11 says “Let
him turn away from evil and do good” and Acts 20:35 says “It is more
blessed to give than to receive”. But they are certainly not the true meaning
of Christmas. People should be doing these things all the time – not just at
Christmas. Sorry, I seem to be drifting from my topic. I will now share my
story with you.

My story begins,
now let me see, it must be 2,011 [amend to suit date of performance] years ago
now, late November as I recall. I started out as a lump of timber in a
carpenter’s shop until one day, an innkeeper came in and asked for a new feed
trough for his horse and donkey (the cow came later). The carpenter showed him
an old one as an example and the two agreed on a price. Two days later the
innkeeper returned to take me home. His stable was a bit dusty, but otherwise
relatively clean. Certainly cleaner than the carpenter’s shop, but much more
smelly. He set me up against the wall on the right hand side of the stable,
opposite the little window. Every day he would line me with fresh straw and
make sure I was clean. At first it was a little awkward having animals eat out
of me, but I eventually got used to it. After a while I didn’t even notice the
smell anymore.

Life in Israel in
those days wasn’t so bad. Sure we were ruled by the Romans but overall, I don’t
think that they treated us all that badly. But not many people shared my
opinion. In those days Bethlehem and indeed all the surrounding cities seemed
to be buzzing. Everybody talked about the Messiah who was to come, how the Messiah
would rid Israel of the Romans, how the Messiah would rule in justice and how
everything would be alright once the Messiah came to be king over Israel, just
like God had promised in the holy scriptures.

Sometimes, I
would imagine myself being the throne of the Messiah when He became king,
delicately carved and overlaid with gold, just like the wood in the temple. At
other times I would imagine that I was His chariot as he rode me into yet
another successful battle in which the enemies of Israel were defeated. No
matter how many times I imagined myself being something important in the
Messiah’s household, I couldn’t escape the fact that I was just an ordinary
manger in a stable. If only I was a manger in the Messiah’s stable! But alas, I
was just an insignificant piece of furniture in the stable of a small inn in
Bethlehem. Nothing much happened in Bethlehem. Sure God had promised many
things to king David, but his family and lineage had long since disappeared
from the throne. There was nothing left in God’s promises for Bethlehem. Or so
I thought…

A few months
after I had settled into the stable the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, decreed
that a census of the Roman Empire was to take place. This meant that everybody
had to return to the city where their family’s records were kept. The only
reason for the census was to raise more money from taxes. Some things just
never change. As the months passed by, thousands of people travelled all over
Israel to return to their town of origin for the census.

It was an
unusually cold December and people were flocking back to Bethlehem from all
over Israel for the census. I remember it well because my owner was very happy.
At a time when he normally did not have many customers, every room in his inn
was fully booked and, as far as I could tell, pretty much every inn in
Bethlehem was fully booked too. Looking back it seems like only yesterday but
it was actually 2,004 years ago today. How the years have passed so quickly.

I was just
getting ready to settle down for the night when I heard some people talking
outside the door of the inn. I could just make out a couple of silhouettes, and
one of them looked very pregnant. I heard them say they had come
from Nazareth in Galilee. It must have taken them two weeks to get to Bethlehem
from there. They sounded worried – it seemed that the baby was just about ready
to be delivered and they had tried every inn in Bethlehem – and this was their
last hope. My owner said there were no rooms left. I could hear the compassion
in his voice, but I could tell that he didn’t know what to do. Then all of a
sudden he suggested, “You could stay in the stable. It isn’t much and it’s not
very clean, but at least it’s warm.” “Thank you” replied the couple, and they
followed my owner to the stable door. He let them in and gave them a couple of
blankets to throw on the floor. The wife looked extremely uncomfortable and she
found it difficult to lie down because of her condition.

But she didn’t
have to worry about lying down, because not long after they arrived she went
into labour. I don’t think I can describe what a woman goes through in labour,
but I will say this – I am glad that mangers do not have to go through that.
The night was rather dark as I recall, and the baby was delivered under the
glow of candles. Then a rather strange thing happened, the moon must have been
covered by clouds earlier that night, because as soon as the baby was born, the
sky grew really bright. I couldn’t see the moon through the window, but I could
tell it was now much brighter outside. They wrapped the baby in some clean
strips of cloth and then looked around for somewhere to lay him down. Oh yes,
it was a boy. I didn’t catch his name at first.

I tried to look
as inconspicuous as possible. It was bad enough that animals ate out of me, and
slobbered all over me. The last thing I wanted was to be the bed of a little
baby who would probably cry all night and keep me awake. But try as I might to
hide they soon saw me. Out with the old straw and in went some fresh, clean
straw. Then they placed the baby inside. To my surprise he didn’t cry. He
didn’t make much of a fuss at all actually. I distinctly remember feeling sorry
for him. Imagine being born in a stable – how humiliating is that? Could he
ever amount to much in life? It was bad enough that he was from Galilee, but
being born in a stable was not something to be proud of.

I was certainly a
long way from my dreams of being a piece of important furniture in the
Messiah’s household. It looked like both me and this little baby would have to
accept our lot in life. I would always be just an ordinary manger in a smelly
stable, and he would always be the boy who was born in a stable.

All of a sudden I
could hear a commotion outside. It sounded like there were five, maybe six men
shouting something about angels singing, and, I think they mentioned the
Messiah. At first I thought they may have been drunk, but they were shepherds
who had been out tending their sheep. They said that some angels appeared to
them that night and told them that a Saviour, Christ the Lord, had been born in
Bethlehem. Wow! Of all the cities and on all the nights! What a coincidence –
two children born on the same night in the same town. I though to myself that
if this baby was Christ the Lord, he must be the Messiah that everybody had
been talking about. After all, it isn’t every baby that gets his birth
announcement delivered by angels.

The shepherds
said that when they got to the city, they could see a bright star. I thought to
myself “That must be the bright light I can see – it’s not the moon”. Then they
said that the star was right over our inn. I suddenly got very excited. A very
important baby – probably the Messiah – had been born very close to our inn.
Perhaps I would get to see him. How exciting to be so close to the Messiah.
Right then a million questions began to race through my head. What did He look
like? Whose family did He belong to? What was His lineage? Would He really
become king of Israel? Would He really get rid of the Romans? Why was He born
in Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem where the temple is?

Then, in the
space of just one sentence, my life was changed. The shepherds went on to tell
the couple that the angels had given them a sign, that they would find a baby
wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a MANGER! Surely this was
too much of a coincidence. I knew there were lots of mangers in Bethlehem but
there couldn’t have been too many with a baby inside. Then it dawned on me. The
baby lying inside of me was the Messiah! I was the Messiah’s first crib. Oh how
I wished that I was cleaner and more elegantly crafted. How I wished that I was
in a bedroom in some beautiful palace and not a dirty, smelly stable. How I
wished that I was lined with fine linen instead of straw. A stable was no place
for a king and a manger was not a proper bed for Him, but He didn’t seem to

Though I was
unworthy, God had counted me worthy to hold the Messiah. He was born to be the
Saviour of the world, and here He was lying inside of me – a dirty manger. It
seems that Jesus was to make this a pattern though. For to this day, the king
of the universe still chooses unworthy, seemingly insignificant vessels and,
through the power of the Holy Spirit, causes them to perform significant
exploits for His kingdom. Our worth comes from Him, not from ourselves. That’s
one thing I learned that night.

God’s greatest
desire is to reconcile a lost world to Himself, so much so that he gave us
Jesus in order that we might be saved. Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved
the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have everlasting life.”

Did you know that
the birth of Jesus is only mentioned in two of the four gospels? Even then, in
Matthew it only says that He was born and that His name was called Jesus. So
the details of Jesus’ birth, pretty much the story I just told you, is only
written in one gospel. The death and resurrection of Jesus however, are
mentioned in all four gospels. It seems that the low key birth of Jesus was
God’s way of saying that His birth should not be a focal point. Jesus was born
for one purpose alone – to die for a sinful world. But it was His death that
gave us life, and His resurrection that gives us hope of eternal life.

Yes, when I look
back, I can’t help but think that the true meaning of Christmas is not about
gifts or holidays, or family or even ‘peace on earth’. The true meaning of
Christmas is the salvation of lost souls. After all, that’s the reason Jesus
was born in the first place, to die for sinners, and that means every single
one of us. Enjoy the gifts and the holiday and the time with your family but,
if you get a chance today, tell someone about the true meaning of Christmas.

You can tell them
that Jesus is more than just a baby who was born a couple of thousand years
ago. The bible says He is:

»  Alpha
and Omega (Rev. 1:8)

»  Anointed
One (Luke 4:18)

»  Author
and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2)

»  Beautiful
Bridegroom (Rev 18:23)

»  Bread
of Life (John 6:35)

»  Bright
and morning star (Rev. 2216)

»  Chief
Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)

»  Chief
Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4)

»  Christ,
the anointed one (John 1:41)

»  Creator
of all things (Colossians 1:16)

»  Everlasting
Father (Isaiah 9:6)

»  Good
shepherd (John 10:11)

»  Heir
of all things (Heb 1:2)

»  Holy
One of God (Mark 1:24)

»  I am
(John 8:58)

»  Image
of the invisible God (Col 1:15)

»  Immanuel
“God with us” (Matt. 1:23)

»  King
of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)

»  Lamb
of God (John 1:29)

»  Light
of the World (John 9:5)

»  Lion
of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)

»  Lord
of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8)

»  Mediator
between God and Men (1 Tim. 2:5)

»  Messiah
(John 4:25)

»  Mighty
God (Isaiah 9:6)

»  Name
above all names (Eph 1:21)

»  Prince
of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

»  Resurrection
and the Life (John 11:25)

»  Saviour
(Luke 1:47)

»  Son
of God (Mark 1:1)

»  Way,
the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)

»  Word
(John 1:1)

Wise men sought
Him. A king sought Him. You should seek Him too.

Impactos: 5

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