“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
All over the world, in every habitable place where Christmas is celebrated, the birth scene of Jesus, the Christ child, is reenacted, pictured in minds, and displayed in miniature and life-size manger scenes (crèches). The earliest written reference of Jesus’ birth, post-apostolic, goes back to around 200 AD, long before its celebration was eventually and formally established, according to extant history, in the fourth century era of Constantine, to be hereafter celebrated on December 25, and in the Eastern Church on January 6, the day of Epiphany. The first and second century Christians appeared to be more interested in remembering the death and resurrection of their Savior than his unique birth, since we find no mention of His birth in the preserved writings of the first and second century church fathers. But today a cross on a hill, an empty tomb, a lamb with a scepter, the symbol of a fish, AND a manger in which lies an infant are all visible signs pointing to one life in human history: Jesus, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11).
This is exactly what a number of shepherds did on the very night Jesus breathed his first human cry; and the Maji repeated the shepherds’ joyful expressions of worship months later before a toddler in his Bethlehem home; a remarkable faith which saw in an infant and then toddler their Lord and Savior.
In this vein of historical truth we see some vestige today of Christmas being celebrated in even non-Christian pagan lands, as well as throughout the earth where the Gospel has in past and present penetrated human culture. It is Dr. Luke, alone among the four Gospels which record the life and ministry of Jesus, who verbally paints the familiar manger scene, as testified to by Mary, an obvious eye-witness, truth-guarded by God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Cor. 2:13), conveying simply and concisely this miraculous birth. What Luke described is still the scene which is fixed in the mind of every individual who loves this One first placed in a manger-bassinet by his mother after being breast-fed for the first time. Some modern writers have attempted to alter the birth scene which has stood the test of centuries such as Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, which may not account for universal truths, like having just reached an over-crowded census town with no place yet to lay your head, and a bag-of-waters-breaking in a full-term pregnant mother ready to give birth, right now; of necessity, you find the nearest place to deliver, and if you have the choice at an over-crowded first century “travelers’ rest, you quickly choose the most private place (animals are preferable to human strangers). I do not see God allowing centuries of Advent-Christmas worship around an erroneous stable-manger scene, any more than an erroneous empty tomb on Easter.
So, in sitting or walking among all the additional Advent-Christmas season accessories: Christmas trees, brightly colored lights, gaily wrapped presents, seasonal music, hanging stockings, mistletoe, holly and ivy, and beloved family, fix your mind and your eyes for some silent meditative moments on the Scripture-preserved scene of your Savior’s birth. See its simplicity, poverty, and servitude; savor its poignant meaning for you; feel its grace in your life; glory in its truth! “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Merry Christmas from all of us at the Paul Anderson Youth Home!
“Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger; he is still the Undefiled, but no more a stranger. Son of God of humble birth, beautiful the story; praise his name in all the earth, hail the King of glory.
(3rd verse of Joseph Cook’s carol. “Gentle Mary Laid Her Child, 1919)
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