Bulletin-Image-wk3Christmas is full of joy and happiness, and sometimes that flows over to jokes, scenes of joyful exuberance, and even practical jokes. One of the most heard of pranks is stealing baby Jesus from yard sized nativity scenes. It seems like we can’t go a Christmas season without hearing about another Jesus-napping. But why? Why steal Jesus from a manger?

Or maybe the better question really is, why would Jesus be in a manger in the first place? Why would God deliver the best present to the world into a manger, a feeding trough?

Why would God enter the world in this way? Why wasn’t there more pomp and circumstance? Why wasn’t the birth in a palace, or at least in the comfort of a home? Why a stable, why a manger? Because it makes perfect sense.

E. Stanley Jones writes about a story of a little boy during World War II and his Christmas wish. It seems as there was a certain little boy at a mission boarding school during World War II. And because of all the fighting, the little boy could not get home for the Christmas holiday. Christmas day came, and he felt incredibly sad and there was nothing that could cheer him up. He didn’t come out of his room all day. He stayed in there even through mealtimes. Finally, the headmaster went to check on him. Seeing that the boy was upset, the headmaster tried to comfort him by asking him what he wanted for Christmas. The boy looked over to his dresser where a photo of his dad was resting, and said, “I wish my father would step out of the picture.”

A Christmas wish that for the boy would not happen, but one that happens for us during this special season. This is exactly what God did in Bethlehem on that wonder filled night. God stepped out of the picture and entered this world as one of us.

William Ezell describes it this way; “It is as though we were looking at God through one of those snowy glass balls and couldn’t clearly see God, so Jesus stepped out of the encasement and took up residence on this planet so we could better understand and know God.” Eugene Peterson explains in the Gospel of John; “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” God came near, and it began through the wonder of a manger.

Jesus Christ stepped out of the picture and right into our reality on that first Christmas. God became fully human, having the full human experience, all while remaining fully divine. This means that God can know and empathize with all our experiences, because he has had them too. This is why, as Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he is without sin.

You see, the wonder of a manger is that God would actually become human, and humbly invade our world with love. God chose to arrive as a powerless, unassuming, and insignificant baby, laying in a manger. This was not by mistake. This was not something that just happened. This was a part of a greater plan, God’s plan. That means there is significance to everything, including a manger.

There’s something thing that struck me as I reflected on a passage from Luke and the thought of a manger. What is a manger? We tend to romanticize the thought of a manger and think that it could be like this one we have here in the sanctuary. And it is possible. But it is also possible that it would have been a box where people would throw food in so the animals could eat. It was a feeding trough. This was where the animals would come to fill their bodies with what they needed for the day. This was where they would gather with other animals.

Jesus is born in Bethlehem which means house of bread. Jesus is the bread of life. We pray each Sunday morning for God to give us our daily bread. We feast during Holy Communion on the body and blood of Jesus Christ. There is a direct connection to this thought of Jesus as the bread of life, the living water that is given, and the first place he was laid as a baby, a manger, a feeding trough. God is showing us who Jesus is by placing him in the wonder of a manger. We see and know who God is by this simple act.

This is the wonder of a manger. This is the wonder of Christmas.

God became human. God took on our human condition. God embodied love for us. Jesus showed us how to be truly human by loving others, serving others, and redeeming our lives by reconciling us back to God. God moved into our neighborhood through the wonder of a manger.