Might In A Manger

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In their theography, Jesus, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola make a fascinating commentary on Bethlehem, the village where Jesus was born. God chose to announce the birth of His Son to shepherds watching their sheep on the Bethlehem hillside. The shepherds were an unusual choice considering the glory of the announcement. But the sheep they watched also deserve our attention.

Bethlehem lay only a short distance from Jerusalem and the Temple where hundreds and thousands of sheep were regularly sacrificed as the Old Testament prescribed. According to Sweet and Viola the sheep on that Bethlehem hillside, along with their lambs, were no ordinary sheep. They were special animals, destined for the Temple and for the ultimate sacrifice. They were carefully tended because the sacrificial animals had to be perfect without any blemishes and without any injuries.

So careful were the shepherds of these special animals that particularly fractious lambs were often swaddled at birth and placed in feed troughs to keep them from injuring themselves.

The leap from lambs in feed troughs and a baby in a manger is not hard to make. Jesus, destined to become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, destined for sacrifice, was swaddled and placed in a manger.

A bigger leap might have been this one from Psalm 62.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (62:5-8).

Perhaps the leap is not as big for all of us who know the end of the story, but for the shepherds and others who met a baby in a manger, the idea that this helpless child was their rest, their hope, their rock, their salvation, their fortress, their honour, their strength, their refuge and worthy of their trust, would have been mind-blowing.

But there He was—God, wrapped in the soft, delicate skin of a baby. The perfect Lamb.

Who would believe? Who would dare place all their hope, all “the eggs” in the baskets of their lives, in the care of this child?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (1:27-31).

The ultimate example of God’s choice of something foolish, weak, lowly, and despised, but destined to save the world, appeared in a feed trough. But it is because of that little “Lamb” that we have been brought back into relationship with God, the Father. And it is in that little “Lamb,” as big a leap as it may seem, that we can rest, hope, hide, and find strength. And to Him we can pour out our hearts.

There is might in that manger.

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