The Other Side of Christmas: December 25

A Way… In a Manger       

December 25, 2019
by Shawn and Stepheny Fanning                  

Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 
The definition of a manger is: a feeder used to hold food for animals. Jesus, when He was born, chose to come into this world in the lowliest of places. Jesus stripped away the rights and privileges He was heir to and instead, made Himself nothing. He came into this world surrounded by farm animals and among the poorest of the poor. On this night, the manger became a symbol. A symbol of humility, yet God also uses it as a sign. Jesus, the Messiah, the one who would be the sacrifice for sin for the entire world, was first placed in a feeding trough. A food trough to physically feed animals meant to be used as a sacrifice themselves. As the trough was used to feed animals, Jesus would be the spiritual food to feed the world.  
God also used the lowest of the low to spread the message that would change the world. Shepherds, in the first century, were known to be dirty, smelly, and dishonest. I suspect that on that night, they were sitting in a field, maybe trying to keep warm, and the next minute they see the sky on fire and heard an indescribable boom suddenly surrounded by angels. In a split second, they found themselves in God’s own glory. Of course, they were scared. This was something they had never experienced before. These angels had the task of being the first beings to tell of the Messiah’s birth and they immediately worked at calming the shepherds down. Notice what they say here… that they “bring great news and that today in a town of David, a Savior has been born to you!”  Notice the inclusion in the angels’ message. They didn’t say, a son has been born to the Jewish people, or to Mary and Joseph, but to you! This includes all people! The mention of the town of David reminds us that God keeps His promise. God always has a plan and God’s plans never fail. When Jesus was born, it was after God had been silent for 400 years. He was quietly setting the stage for what would be the most extraordinary act, a promise fulfilled that would change the world. God sent us the greatest gift ever – Jesus – to make a way so that sons and daughters of men could become sons and daughters of God.  
In the middle of the craziness that Christmas Day can be, take some time to recognize that Jesus came not merely for the world but for you. Pray together as a family a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ birth and the access that gives us to God, not as strangers who are dirty and smelly, but as sons and daughters of the Living God. That is cause for a Merry Christmas.
Father, what an amazing sight the shepherds must have witnessed; what an amazing message came from that night! Even when we feel like we are nobody, like we are the lowest of the low, remind us that those are the kinds of people whom You use. Help us to remind others and even ourselves that although we may not see you working in miraculous ways, You are still there quietly setting things in place to make a way and that You will let your plans eventually be known. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

About the author:
Shawn and Stepheny Fanning
Shawn and Stepheny Fanning met in the Air Force. Both have been baptized and have dedicated their lives to Christ. They moved to Fredericksburg in September of 2016.  They started attending Stafford Crossing on Good Friday in April 2019 and have since fallen in love with the church. In October of 2019, they attended the member orientation and began volunteering.