I love how our house looks at Christmas time. Lots of meaningful decorations fill each room. In our house, we have the great blessing of three nativity scenes. These nativity scenes are all different, yet the same. Each set has different characteristics.
One set is a “Willow Tree” nativity. The characters have no faces, but their long carved bodies evoke emotion like an impressionist painting. I love the simplicity of this set.
A second set is a “Precious Moments” nativity. This set was a gift to my wife from her parents as she was growing up . . . a different piece every year. Because of that history, this set is a yearly reminder of the “good deposit” Kimberly’s family gave her by telling her the truth about Jesus.
The third set is a “Little People” nativity set that we acquired when our son was only a couple of years old. It allowed our two year old to play with the pieces in an interactive way, and learn the Christmas story (or at least his version of the Christmas story). A short time after he got this nativity set, he started to tell me the Christmas story using the angel and Mary. The angel came to Mary’s house and told her (in his words), “Good news about Jesus. He came to take away our badness.” I was so proud. Then the angel tackled Mary. We asked him what Mary said to the angel, and he said, “Thank you for coming to my house and tackling me.” I think that last twist must have come from a Dan Brown novel.
For all the differences between these three nativities, there is one striking similarity. They all have Jesus as a baby, asleep in a horse trough full of hay. As I look at that each year, I am awestruck again by the fact that the God of the universe would humble Himself to THAT point. The independent God coming as a dependent baby. The One who sits at the right hand of the Father, lying in a cow’s cafeteria. This just seems so drastic . . . and so odd. However, there is a plan in it all. Jesus comes as a baby to fully identify with our experience (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus came in a mortal Body so that He might be able to die to bring immortality to His people (Romans 5:8). The baby in the manger looks out of place until we place it in context.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God hovered over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. First this was in the Tabernacle, then it was in the Temple. The Holy of Holies was a place of great grandeur and formality. Because of this, it is surprising to find the Savior in the manger in the Christmas story. I think it is possible that Jesus was born in the stall to announce to the world in a very definitive way that the presence of God would not reside behind a curtain any longer. The Spirit of God was moving away from a super-protected room inside the Temple that only a few people would ever see, to a public location where lowly Shepherds and foreigners could visit. This move of the presence of God from private to the public, helps set the stage for the Spirit of God taking up residence in the hearts and lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ today. The same God who lay in the manger, now resides within us!
This awesome truth is spoken of in today’s song for reflection, Julie Miller’s “Manger Throne” (recorded by Third Day with Derri Daughtery and Julie Miller). May you be reminded of God’s residence in your life each time you see the baby in the manger in a nativity scene this Christmas. ”Our heart is a home for God’s Own Son!”
What kind of King would leave His throne
In Heaven to make this earth His home?
While men seek fame and great renown
In loneliness our King comes down
Jesus, Jesus, precious One
How we thank You that You’ve come
Jesus, Jesus, precious One
A manger throne for God’s own Son
You left the sound of angels’ praise
To come for men with unkind ways
And by this Baby’s helplessness
The power of nations is laid to rest
What kind of King would come so small
From glory to a humble stall?
That dirty manger is my heart, too
I’ll make it a royal throne for You
My heart is a throne
My heart is a throne for God’s own Son
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