Luke 2: 6,7
A census from Rome triggered a massive shift of people around the Roman Empire as people journeyed to their roots. For Joseph this meant that he had to go with Mary, his pregnant pledged wife, because both were descendants of King David. David came from Bethlehem so to Bethlehem they went. For most of us, we could return to the town of our birth but to return to the town of our great, great grandfather’s birth would be a DNA task. Many generations of people had been born since King David so Bethlehem must have been bursting with visitors. No guest rooms were available and so Mary gave birth to Jesus, “wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there were no guest rooms available.”
As I ponder this very familiar scene that is enacted by children in Christmas plays each year, the manger caught my attention. At the risk of stating the obvious, the manger is where the food was placed for animals. I believe animals drink from a trough and eat from a manger. Baby Jesus is placed in a manger, a feeding place. That seems terribly poetic. As we sit down to our Christmas meals we will not eat from a manger but decades later Christians will hear Jesus say, “This is my body, eat in remembrance of me.” We believe that as we grow in faith and internalize more and more about Jesus, we go from being baby Christians to being mature, discerning disciples. Jesus as a babe in a manger is a picture of coming to faith that is helpless like a baby, to a savior who is gentle and loving to us like a baby, and who grows in our hearts. A bit far fetched but as we eat this Christmas, let us remember that baby in a manger, food for our weary souls.
“Away in a Manger” is touted as an original American Christmas carol loved by so many. It appeared around 1888 and Martin Luther was given credit as having sung it to his children. This is not believed now and the real author is unknown but the song still is a favorite for its gentleness and the sense of protection it evokes from a God who watches over us. Blessings as you feed your body and soul this Christmas!