Advent. Day 11: The Manger

Advent. Day 11: The Manger

Opening Prayer. God, open us to the simplicity of your miraculous advent here on earth and in our hearts. AMEN.

Scripture. Micah 5:2-5a.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

Inconvenient and Uncomfortable..?  from Vikki Bleise

The Manger, the simple Manger.

Have you ever considered the possible significance for the mangeras the site of the birth of Jesus? The prophecy of Micah foretells of the birth in Bethlehem. But what about the significance of the structure in which Jesus was born?

If you were planning the most important event to happen in hundreds of years, would you not make sure you had the perfect venue and the best possible date? By today’s standards when you make preparation for a huge event, you almost always pick the date and location for the most desirable outcome. You would probably shy away from “the busiest travel day”, like a time when everyone was going to be traveling far and wide for a national census, resulting in possibly diminished lodging opportunities.

As we survey the entire history of the nation of Israel, God was always providing just what His people needed and when it was most needed; from manna for nourishment to a whale for Jonah to survive his admonished escape.  So, how difficult would it have been to make certain that Mary and Joseph might have had adequate accommodations for the birth of the Son of God?

The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth.  Based on other events it is possible to calculate Mary’s pregnancy and the approximate time of the birth of Jesus to coincide with the Festival of Tabernacles, the last of seven festivals that celebrates the end of forty years of wandering for the Israelites. The Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths is a week-long festival where you are commanded to “dwell” in your sukkot, which is Hebrew for a stable. This might suggest why Mary and Joseph did not think it inconvenient to dwell in a stable, as it would have followed a tradition they had practiced for years.  During that week long celebration there is much joy and people come to visit.

So it appears that the answer is…that it was supposed to be just as it was. A simple manger, a trough for a crib and the Christmas miracle.

If we complicate the story with an elaborate setting we lose the impact and the simplicity of the message. Anything more just simply doesn’t add to the narrative. That Jesus was laid upon soft straw in an animal feed trough offers great symbolism.  Jesus IS our source of spiritual nourishment. There lays the greatest gift ever and the coming assurance that for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16)

The message is life-changing and so it is appropriate that nothing should complicate the setting of this miracle. We may feel that it was uncomfortable for Mary and Joseph, it may have come at an inconvenient time for them and likely it is not what they might have imagined the birth story. But it was exactly how God ordained it to happen.

Further Reflection.

  • As I think about embodying the manager during this advent season, I am reminded that I need to focus on that which is simple so that I might clearly hear the message of the good news. I am also a manager, a place where God can come and dwell with me. Am I ready?
  • We often forget the importance of the simple message of birth of Jesus, making it an elaborate holiday that carries too many expectations? When your guests come to celebrate this year will you look towards sharing the joy of the birth of Jesus?  Perhaps rethinking the gifts you give, is there a message God is asking you to share that will have a greater impact on the recipient?

Closing Prayer. God, quicken my heart that I might be ready for you to dwell in and with me. Amen.

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