Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Meaning of the Manger

Nativity scenes will soon be seen, sold, and set-up in homes and business which are still not overly concerned about political correctness and lawsuits filed by the ACLU. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of all the people who get so upset about the secularization of “the holiday season.” Is it sad? Yes. Is it a slap in the face to the Savior? Yes. Should we be surprised? No. After all, Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus. Why, then, should we be shocked if someone wants to remove all Christmas trees from an airport and tell their employees to say “Happy Holidays” or some other nondescript winter greeting? Maybe we ought to simply turn the other cheek like our Savior told us instead of working ourselves up into such an angry frenzy that our ability to celebrate Christmas is severely diminished.

No one is stopping you from setting up a nativity scene in your home. Use one as part of your Advent and Christmas devotion. After a hectic day of shopping at the mall or after a long commute home from work, light your Advent wreath and reflect on the real meaning of the season as you gaze upon the figures in the stable. When you look at the Child lying in the manger, remember how the Son of God humbled himself to become a helpless Baby in order to live as one of us and to die for all of us. When you see Mary and Joseph tenderly staring at the Baby, remember their example of faith in the face of what seemed like an impossible situation ... a Virgin giving birth! When you see the shepherds leaning in to get a look at the Infant, remember how you, too, were invited by grace to come and worship the Savior of the world. When you see the Magi kneeling and presenting their gifts before the King of Kings, remember that the gifts you bring to your Savior – your time, talents, and treasures – are nothing in comparison to the blood-bought gift of forgiveness and eternal life that God gives to you. Still, God uses these gifts to advance his Word so that many more may be brought to worship the Christ Child.

Remember, too, how Martin Luther compared Holy Scripture to the manger of Bethlehem. In one of his writings from 1521, he wrote that the Gospels and Epistles were written to direct us to the writings of Moses and the Prophets “so that we might there read and see for ourselves how Christ is wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the manger [Luke 2:7], that is, how he is comprehended in the writings of the prophets. It is there that people like us should read and study, drill ourselves, and see what Christ is, for what purpose he has been given, how he was promised, and how all Scripture tends toward him.” (“A Brief Explanation on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels,” Luther’s Works, vol. 35, p. 122). Likewise, in his Preface to the Old Testament (1523), he wrote, “Here you will find the swaddling cloths and the manger in which Christ lies, and to which the angel points the shepherds [Luke 2:12]. Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but dear is the treasure, Christ, who lies in them.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 35, p. 236) Other than looking at a nativity scene, you and I cannot go back in time and see Jesus. But the inscripturated Word is where we find the Word made Flesh, and it is the means whereby God comes to us with his grace and mercy.

Come join us during the Advent and Christmas seasons as we kneel before the manger of God’s Word and receive that dear treasure, Christ.

1 comment:

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Kurt,

The Manger is a superb tool for introducing kids to Jesus, I am now finding.