The holidays bring such joy for so many people, young and old, every walk of life. It’s a time to celebrate family, friends, and even life itself. But for others, the holidays can be stressful and sad. With this writing, I want to take some time and speak from my heart to encourage all of us to just stop—-whether you are happy or overwhelmed—-let’s all just take a moment to consider the magnitude of what, or better yet WHO we are celebrating at Christmas.
John 1 tells us that Jesus, by His Words, created everything that exists and every person that has ever walked the face of the earth or will walk the face of the earth. And the very One Who created the stars of the heavens and knows them all by name, Who walks golden streets where there is no darkness because He is the Eternal Light, Who knew no sin, did no sin and in Him was no sin, He wrapped Himself in human flesh and CHOSE to come down to man’s level and live among our frail humanity. He did not have to come. There was no requirement for Him to redeem mankind. But the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man could become Sons of God. His Grace changes us forever-He is the only baby born to die.
But have you ever considered how did the shepherds know how to find Him? Or, what exactly is a manger filled with hay or swaddling clothes anyway? Or why did He come in the first place? Here are some thoughts to consider…..
In Luke’s account, he tells us that shepherds were watching their flocks by night when Angels appeared to them and told them, “You will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” These shepherds were Jewish and knew the prophecies about their Messiah. Micah 4:8 and 5:2 tells us that that in Bethlehem at the “tower of the flock”, is where the Messiah would be born. These shepherds kept flocks of sheep that were used for the Jewish sacrifices near the tower of the flock. When an ewe was about to give birth to a lamb, she would be brought to the tower of the flock where the Jewish priests kept the stalls very clean and ready for these lambs to be born. When the lamb was born, it was wrapped in swaddling clothes (to keep them from getting nicks and cuts or injured in any way as these would eventually be lambs to be used in sacrificial offerings.) When a lamb was brought by a sinner, the priest would inspect the lamb (not the sinner) to make sure the lamb had no spot or blemish and the sinner would put his hand on the lamb as a picture of his sin “going into” the little innocent lamb (who was without sin). In turn, the righteousness of the lamb “came into the sinner”. Now, when God looks at those of us who accept Christ as their Messiah, He looks at Jesus, the perfect, innocent lamb, Who bore our sins on the cross and sees us as righteous and accepted. Isn’t this amazing that Jesus, the Savior of the world was born in this way? No wonder these shepherds were excited! They were likely the first ones to see the long awaited Messiah-“a Lamb wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger”. How their hearts must have been soaring….these lowly, common, undignified shepherds, selected to be among the first to see the “The Perfect Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)
The Manger Filled With Hay
A manger was commonly found in places where livestock was fed. It was actually a feeding trough, usually made of wood or more likely around the time Jesus was born, a manger was made of stone. The two most significant details about the manger to me are this:
First, the manger was likely filled with hay as the sheep would eat from these mangers. Although hay can make a somewhat soft bed, more importantly it’s the picture it represents-Jesus is food for our souls. He is the Bread of Life, the very provision from Heaven that sustains us and gives us life. (Just as the lamb that the Israelites ate at the very first Passover in Egypt, Jesus is the Perfect Lamb that brings strength and healing for every journey we take in life. And just like the Manna in the wilderness was the food that sustained them and kept them alive Jesus is the food that sustains us each and every day-our daily provision.)
Secondly the manger was probably made of stone. Even as Mary likely laid this tiny Creator of the universe to rest there beside her shortly after he was born, thirty-three years later, Jesus was again “laid to rest” in a borrowed stone tomb-borrowed because He is no longer in the tomb. He died for us so that those of us who believe on Him “will never die, but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16). “Laid to rest” in stone manger when He was born and “laid to rest” in a stone tomb when He died. The only baby born to die so that we could be “born again” to live forever with Him!!
Why Did He Come In The First Place?
This may be the “BEST NEWS” of all!! Angel’s very proclamations to the frightened shepherds contain some amazing insight for all mankind, even to this day and beyond:
The very first thing the Angel said was: “DO NOT BE AFRAID!” Isn’t it just like God to have the Angel say that first!? He is still saying that to our hearts today-“Do not be afraid”. Why? Well, that answer in just a moment…..
Secondly, “I bring GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY which will come to ALL PEOPLE”. Notice GOOD NEWS—Not BAD news. And of GREAT JOY-not sadness and depression. And, to ALL PEOPLE-not just a select few. Why? Well, that answer in just a moment…..
Thirdly, “For unto you (all mankind) is born this day a SAVIOR who is Christ, the Messiah, the Lord!” Note: The Angel did NOT say “For unto you is born a ‘lawgiver’, a ‘judge’, a ‘condemner'”. NO! NO! NO! This is the really GOOD NEWS-Jesus is our SAVIOR. Savior from what? From ever being punished for sin again (Is 53:5 says that He was punished for our sins and iniquities) and from being condemned to an eternity without God. Jesus never condemned anyone (John 3:16 we all know, but how about v. 17….” For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world”). Jesus never put conditions on anyone who wanted to receive from Him. He was a friend of sinners (thank you Lord) and the only ones He ever fussed at were those who thought they were righteous and perfect.
So, why should we not be afraid? And what is the Good News of Great Joy to ALL PEOPLE?
We DON’T have to BE AFRAID because He is still a friend of sinners today and He loves us so much that He wants us to be with Him forever. He died for us and paid a price we could never, ever pay….the Perfect Lamb of God Who takes away (totally wipes it out) the sin of the entire world, past, present and future. He satisfied God’s judgment for our sins forever when he died on the cross. He did not create man for hell or hell for a man. And that’s the GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY-this baby is truly our Savior from death and hell. We can reject all of the amazing truths that are in the story of Jesus’ birth because they don’t fit into our reasoning or human logic. Or we can choose to believe the GOOD NEWS that the Angel of the Lord proclaimed over 2000 years ago and the One that Isaiah the prophet wrote about:
“For unto us a Child is born, for unto us, a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6)
God gave us the most amazing gift that could ever be given…JESUS. The only baby born to die. The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man could become the Sons of God. When we choose to believe this GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY then we will live forever with Him. In fact, if you are discouraged, stressed or overwhelmed turn to Him-He will lift you up, give you courage and hope.
The attorneys and staff at Bond and Botes want to help you as well and encourage you that God really does have a bright, new future for you. We wish you the best CHRIST filled holiday ever!! Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding any legal issue you may need help with.
May the most wonderful time of the year extend throughout the year to you and yours. Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you!
Suzanne Shinn is a shareholder of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama and Mississippi. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. She joined the Bond & Botes team in 1992 as its first associate attorney and has been helping clients navigate the bankruptcy process ever since. Read her full bio here.