Although acquiring the “perfect Christmas tree” each year has become a family tradition that has many stories that are repeated year after year, my favorite Christmas “decoration” is the Manger Scene. It is amazing how a simply crafted wooden stable and several painted ceramic figurines can bring such profound thoughts…
When I set the Manger Scene up I’m reminded both of the humility of Jesus, and of His power and Kingship. I usually place the Baby Jesus in the stable first, it seems its easier to know where to position everyone else if He is there in the center…
and that is how my life should be as well…Jesus placed first, in the center of all.
When Jesus is first in my life, when He is in the center of all I do, and of all I say it will determine how others things are positioned around me. It will affect my relationships, my desires, my activities…
Then I place Mary and Joseph looking down at their new born son. Their Son that the angel came and told them about. Their Son that was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Their Son, Jesus, born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling cloths, who they laid in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the Inn.
What was it like to be alone in that dark stable, surrounded with the sounds and scents of animals, looking upon the one who Mary just gave birth to, a baby, yet God in flesh! Was this humble birth confusing to this young couple? Was that what they expected after being told by the angel…
“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:32-33
I’m reminded that often what I see happening, what I’m going through at the moment doesn’t always look like what I heard God say, what He promised in His word, or what I had prayed for. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t what God intends. There is a bigger picture that will some day come together, I need to just ponder it in my heart and trust God.
So humble, yet so profound!
No other birth has been celebrated for two thousand years!
This same humility is what God wants from us…
“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God.” Philippians 2:3-8
For when we are humble our lives are profoundly different!
Next I place the shepherd, and his sheep, to the left of Mary and Joseph, I think of the lowly shepherds that were out watching their sheep that night. Why shepherds? Shepherds, the first ones chosen to go and see what God had done! The first ones tell others the Good News of the Good Shepherd! As I look at the shepherd I wish I could have been on the hill that dark night when the sky flooded with Light and the Glory of the Lord shone all around! What did the shepherds think as they were told by the angel…
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem!” Luke 2:10-11
Though I have only one angel, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be surrounded by the light and the trumpeting sound of a heavenly host of angels proclaiming,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14
After that amazingly awesome, and exceedingly holy encounter, the shepherds were compelled to go and to find the Babe, lying in a manger. They weren’t content to just revel in the glory on the mountain side. They weren’t willing to just hear the Good News from the angels, they wanted to go see for themselves, to go and experience this thing the angels told them about.
So for me, I shouldn’t be content to just listen to others worshipping and praising God. I can’t know all there is to know about Jesus from the stories of others. I must get up and go find Jesus for myself. To see Him, encounter Him, and learn for myself who Jesus is. Once I see Him, experience Him, and find Him to be who God says He is, my life will be changed and as the shepherds, I will want to go and tell others all about Him and all who hear will see how great God is!
Though the wise men didn’t come to the stable, but came several months later to the house where Jesus was, they bring balance to the manger scene as I place them to the right of Mary and Joseph.
The wise men studied the stars, and one night there was an extra star! God, the One who sends out the stars each night and calls each one by name, chose to put an extra star in the sky to point the wise men to Jesus.
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
God spoke through His prophets hundreds of years before…
“And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6
The wise men believed the prophecy of a new King of the Jews that was to be born and though they weren’t Jewish they left everything, traveled for months following a star, so they could worship the new King and offer Him gifts.
I have a wooden sign that says, “Wise men still seek Him.” I leave it up all year round because I believe to seek Jesus is the wisest thing anyone can ever do.
Wisdom is found only in God.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” Psalms 111:10
The wise men left much and they gave much.
May I too, as I study God’s word, when challenged with the truth about Him, be willing to leave the things that aren’t pleasing to Him, be willing to leave behind all that distracts me from finding Him and from bowing down in worship of Him. May I also bring Jesus my everything; my talents, gifts, desires, dreams, yes, my whole heart, and lay them before Him in worship. For they were given to me by God, as I humbly lay them before His feet He will raise me up to be used for His honor and glory.
The last thing I do is to turn on the light over the manger scene.
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2
God saw the darkness of the world He created and knew how desperately it needed the Light of Heaven to shine. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to bring the Light of Heaven into our darkness.
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12
While Jesus was here on earth He shone the Light of Heaven as He preached the truth of the Good News, showed compassion and healed the sick. And when He went back to heaven He imparted His Light to all who believe in Him.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden… In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14,16
Lord, may I be as the light on my manger scene, shining out Your Light wherever I go so that others may see the good things I do in obedience to You and praise Your holy name!