(continued…) There is another word in the Christmas story that can serve as an illustration of the meaning in the words ‘for you.’ The word ‘manger’ is used in the story three times: first in verse seven when Luke describes where Mary laid the newborn infant; and in verse twelve when the angel is giving instructions to the shepherds on where they could find this newborn Savior of the world– “This will be a sign for you,” the angel said, “You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger;” and in verse 16 where we read that the shepherds did indeed find the baby in a manger. From those three references, it is assumed that Jesus was born in a stable and there were animals around. Stables had mangers in which to put feed for the animals.
To an animal, a stable is like a prison. In a stable you have pens, you have gates, you have stanchions, you might have chains or ropes– you have whatever it takes to keep the animals from getting away. I’m not saying the animals are bothered by not having the freedom to wander all over the world. They probably don’t mind it as long as they are fed and watered and warm. A cow probably wouldn’t get much out of a trip to the Grand Canyon anyway. And an old sow probably doesn’t care if she never gets to the Mall of America– all the people there and all that noise would just make her nervous. I don’t think animals mind being restricted to pens or pastures. That’s all they have ever known. But think about that– those animals are confined like that for you— so that you can have milk to drink, and butter on your bread, and a slice of ham on Christmas day. Those animals are confined to those places for you— for your sake.
This is an illustration of what Christmas is all about. Unlike your average cow or sow, Jesus was not used to being confined. Jesus was used to being God, ruler over all things, seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. And the message of Christmas is that Jesus chose to allow himself to be born, and thus to be confined to a human body, living a life on this small speck of dust we call earth, in one small corner of the universe he created and rules over. And not only would his birth here confine him to a very small place, but he would also be confined to a limited amount of time. The eternal God would submit himself to the limits of a human life, to suffer, and then, to even die. And why? FOR YOU, said the angels to the shepherds. “For you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” “And,” said the angel, “you will find this baby in a manger.” What a wonderful image that is. God, in Jesus, came to earth and was confined to a life like we are confined to, being born among animals, in their place of confinement. Jesus, born for us, in a place where animals are kept for us. It would be hard to imagine a more humble birth, and all for you.
Painting on the wall of the Kempele Old Church, Kempele, Finland, by Mikael Toppelius (1734-1821)
Luke 2:10-11 — The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:7 — And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL
SIX LINES TO TELL THE STORY; SIX LINES TO SAY A PRAYER TO JESUS:
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray!
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.