The Reality of the Manger Scene

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ birth more times than I count. I’ve experienced it through dramas, songs, Hallmark cards, Veggie Tales, Sock Puppets – you name it and I’ve probably witnessed it – and I’m sure you have to.

I’m not against any of that. In fact, I’m strongly for it. I believe that if we aren’t constantly reminding ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas then we will most likely forget it.

However, with something that we hear about so commonly it’s easy for us to treat it as common – even when it’s something so earth shaking as the birth of the Son of God.

We all know the story of Jesus’ birth, but with a closer look there are some surprising realities to the manger scene that I think we can easily miss. If we aren’t careful we could buy into the idea that the birth of Christ was comfortable, normal, and easy.

Jesus Isn’t Afraid To Enter Into Our Filth

We often imagine the manger scene as a clean, well-kept barn with golden-yellow hay. In reality, the environment that Jesus was born into was most likely covered in the filth of animals and smeared with dirt. It’s quite possible that the air was too hot or too cold. It’s likely that the smell wasn’t pleasant. It’s probable that the environment that Jesus entered into was anything, but clean

To me this says that Jesus isn’t afraid to enter into our filth – that He isn’t intimidated by our unfavorable conditions.

We don’t serve a God who tip toes around uncleanness or is intimidated by the weakness of our humanity. Christ died for us when we were at our worst and He loves us so intensely that He came in the flesh to walk among us as Immanuel – meaning God with us (Matthew 1:23).

An Uncomfortable Plan

It’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of Mary and Joseph. Nowhere in scripture does it say that they were ready for what happened. While they of course knew that they were to give birth to Jesus, it doesn’t sound like they had all of the details. In no way, does it seem that God gave them specific dates and times and instructions for how His will was to be done in the birth of Jesus.

My wife and I are actually expecting now and I can tell you for certain that my ideal plan for having a child doesn’t look anything like an animal stall. In fact, I want a full team of doctors and nurses with an array of modern medical equipment at their fingertips. I don’t know what Mary and Joseph’s ideal setting was, but if I had to guess, a manger with a feeding trough probably wasn’t at the top of their list.

I can only imagine what must have been going through their minds that night. Surely they had to battle doubt and uncertainty when God’s plan proved to be so uncomfortable. The only thing they had to hold onto that night was the trust and faith in what God had promised to them through the angel, Gabriel…

Promise #1: God was with them.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! “ [emphasis added]

Luke 1:28

Promise #2: With God, nothing will be impossible. 

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke 1:37

What’s interesting is that what God promised them wasn’t certainty, comfort, or a detailed explanation.

I think often times this is how we must follow God’s plans – without everything figured out. That’s why I believe that having the details and directions for God’s plans isn’t as important as having the devotion and dependence for them.

It took incredible faith to trust the plan that was laid before them, but because they did, they were blessed with being a part of the greatest plan ever set into motion. Hope entered into this fallen world in the form of sinless, perfect child that changed the course of history forever.

It’s a plan that continues to this day and it’s a plan that we have all been invited to participate in. It’s a plan of peace, hope, and redemption and it began in the most humble of places.

While God’s plans don’t promise comfort or certainty, even in the birth of His Son, they do promise that He will be with us – and that’s truly all we need.

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