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A Stranger in the Manger
by Alan Allegra
12/15/2018 / Holidays
Studies show that the time of year that produces the most babies is summer, with August leading the way. I’m no expert, but I disagree with them. I believe the most prolific time for babies is the Christmas season. Babies appear everywhere: stores, malls, plazas, family rooms, schools, bars — you name it. They range from life-size to miniature, paper to plastic to cloth to ceramic, incandescent to inflatable. Some of these babies are brand-new, while some are hundreds of years old. All of them have the same parents, the same bed, and the same name.
You know I am referring to the baby Jesus in the crèche, or nativity scene. At Christmas, nativity scenes come out of storage and make their appearance. When the last gingerbread man is eaten, the babies go back in storage to be forgotten as being out-of-season.
What about the real baby Jesus? Where does he go after Christmas?
Christ cannot to be relegated to a decoration or forgotten most of the year. Jesus did not remain a baby, although it seems that baby in the artificial manger never gets older from year-to-year.
But that baby did grow older. As important as that birth was (being born of a virgin doesn’t happen every day [Matthew 1:23]), Jesus did not remain that innocent little babe in a manger: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He was not put away and was not forgotten: “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all” (Luke 4:14–15).
That innocent babe grew up to be an innocent man: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Although — and because — he was sinless, Jesus could die for our sins and give us his righteousness: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We are born, and then we die. Jesus was born as well, but he was born to die. The night before he was betrayed to his killers, Jesus said, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him” (Matthew 26:24). Why did this innocent-babe-turned-innocent man have to die when he had done nothing worthy of death? “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ was born specifically to die in our place.
We were all born at some point (probably longer ago than we like to think!), but few of us have baby statues on display; our birth is not that noteworthy. Being born once gets us here; however, it does not get us where we should be. Only a second birth can get us into the kingdom of God. As miraculous as the birth of Christ was, so is the reality of the second birth. When Nicodemus asked how that can be, “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3). One must be born again by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in order to be forgiven of the sins that separate us from God the Father.
Don’t hide Jesus in the closet or attic and forget about him. You can become a part of God’s family, and that’s not just the plastic Joseph and Mary; instead, take in the risen and ascended Jesus and hide him in your heart, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). Only then will you be able to “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)! Don’t make the babe in the manger a year-long stranger!
Alan is Content Coordinator for Lifestyles Over 50 (Thrive Media) and contributor to the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also an adult Sunday school teacher and Bible study leader. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology, and being a senior citizen!
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