Unpacking Christmas: The Manger

Originally published Saturday, 14 December 2013.

Every year I gingerly unpack the green and gold Lenox boxes containing our hand-me-down nativity set. Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the shepherds and wise men typically grace the table in quick succession. However, this year I am trying something a little different. We are adding to the nativity as we read about the accounts of the blessed historical characters of Christmas. Our nativity will unfold as does the Christmas account over the course of Advent.

As I consider the people surrounding the story of Jesus' birth I am reminded of how His purpose in mission was foreshadowed in the details of His birth.

  • He was born to two poor, humble parents. Followers of God and expectant of the coming Messiah long before they understood Mary would be the chosen vessel, He chose these two, the seemingly powerless, to welcome the Most High God.

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

  • He identified Himself with poverty of means in birth and foretold His poverty of Spirit even centuries before He came to earth.

He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. (Isaiah 53:3)

  • Angels heralded His birth not to the wise and wonderful, but to the lonely and diligent servants of sheep for He would set the lonely into families.

God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (Psalm 68:6)

  • No royal robes did he don, but swaddling clothes as he lay in a manger where animals fed.

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

As you gaze upon your nativity this year consider the true account of Christmas as told in the gospels and ask yourself, "What have we as a culture added to the story of Christmas? What have we taken away?" A wonderful resource to read to rediscover the history of the nativity is Answer's in Genesis's booklet: Uncovering the Real Nativity. (See here.)

Also, a closer look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, may prove profitable for you this year. Consider reading, Mary Christmas, a post I wrote over at Raise the Risk a few years ago or the fabulous account in this month's Homelife Magazine, written by Liz Curtis Higgs, Between Now and Then: When you wait with God, you never wait alone. In this excerpt from her new book, The Women of Christmas, Liz pens, "God didn't choose Mary because she was unique. Mary was unique because God chose her. "

May our hearts turn ever more to beat in sync with the Savior of the world as we seek to know Him and make Him known.