December 15, 2010

Why Jesus Was Born in a Manger

 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).*
Have you ever wondered why Jesus was lying in a manger? Is it simply an insignificant part of the Christmas story?
To comprehend the meaning of Luke 2:12 fully, we must consider 1 Corinthians 10:11: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Since Scripture was written to help us better understand God’s purpose, understanding the significance of the manger helps us grasp the meaning of the entire Christmas story.
The angel told the shepherds, “This shall be a sign unto you,” answering their question before they asked.
2010 1540 page21The word translated “sign” comes from the Greek word s?meion, meaning a supernatural miracle, token, or wonder. So the angel told the shepherds that God’s Son would be born in Bethlehem that night, and they could recognize Him by this sign, this miraculous wonder: He would be found lying in a manger.
But why would God allow that? Every good parent, from pauper to millionaire, wants the best for their child. If you visit any soon-to-be parents, you will notice two things they are very proud of—the baby’s room and the baby’s clothes.
But a manger, in a smelly, dirty, noisy stable, for God’s Son? The place was probably crowded with animals. It seems a strange choice for someone “dwelling in the light which no man can approach” (1 Tim. 6:16).
What about the baby’s clothes? The angel told the shepherds He would be wrapped in swaddling clothes—translated from the Greek spargano? , meaning to swathe or wrap an infant with strips. I’m sure that the strips of cloth that Mary used to wrap Baby Jesus were the best they could afford.
Perhaps the “sign” for the shepherds was not just so they would recognize God’s Son among the crowd in Bethlehem. Perhaps it also was an indication of the kind of God He was—a God worthy to “receive power, . . . and honor, and glory” (Rev. 5:12), yet allowing His Son to lie in a manger?
Could it mean that no matter how smelly, dirty, noisy, and crowded my life is, Jesus wants to be in my life? Could it be that no matter how messed up my life is, I don’t have to clean it up first before I invite Him in? Could it mean that no matter what I’ve done, or how bad I believe I am, or how much guilt I’m carrying around, this sign is for me?
 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Yes, this sign is for us. He is the Creator of the ends of the earth (Isa. 40:28), but He gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). He dwells in the light that no man can approach (1 Tim. 6:16), but the pure in heart shall see Him (Matt. 5:8). It’s a fearful thing to fall into His hands (Heb. 10:31), but His tender mercies are over all His works (Ps. 145:9). His throne is surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands (Rev. 5:11), but He will leave 99 to find one who has gone astray (Matt. 18:12). We are grasshoppers in His sight (Isa. 40:22), but He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Jesus was laid in a manger so that we would know that we have a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). Even though our sins are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), even though like sheep we have all gone astray (Isa. 53:6), He stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).
The manger is a very significant part of the Christmas story, telling volumes about the kind of God He is. He wants us to know this about Him. “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
* All biblical references in this article are from the King James Version.
S. R. Morris writes from Mountain Home, Idaho. This article was published December 16, 2010.