THE way in the manger…

Away in a manger: Every year at this time, usually around the third or fourth Sunday before Christmas, children get up and do their always inspiring Christmas pageants.

We have all heard the stories or seen them… of the greatest pageant ever where the Innkeeper – a bigger, slower boy… couldn’t bring himself to say there is no room at the inn, and so instead blurted, “You can have my room!” He totally blew his one and only line to ruin the Christmas pageant and at the same time make it the best one ever. Or maybe you have heard about the little girl who turned her M upside down into a W and by doing so, changed the words Christmas Love into Christ was Love. Pretty cool.

But every year they are there, little boys dressed up in shepherd costumes, watching over make believe sheep, while little angels…dressed in little angel costumes hover over yonder.

Little Larry is poking little Judy, and little Ralphie is trying to get little Peter into trouble again, and there’s the little girl pulling up her angel dress and the little boy trying to make bodily noises in the microphone… and then the director, bless her heart, taps the podium and calls the group to attention, sort of, and they begin to sing…

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…

You know we sing these songs – away in a manger and yet live as far asway from the manger as possible. There really is a way in the manger, but we live more like it is Away with the manger if you know what I mean. The song says ‘no crying he makes” but come on, he was a baby! Not only did he cry, I’m sure he tooted too, and spit up and christened his mom and dad just like every other baby. He was really a baby, really a boy, really a man and he really died. Even Rembrandt in his painting called the Adoration of the Shepherds painted a ladder in the background, which placed a shadow over the Christ child in the manger, that looked like a cross. And, a rooster walked in the foreground, which was an old symbol for betrayal – the cock crowing. He was truly God and truly man. When the song suggests even that it was a silent night and a holy night,.. holy yes, silent no.

We also sing O Little Town of Bethlehem at this time of year. Ever wonder why? Why Bethlehem? Why not Jericho, or Sychar or Capernaum? Well, it was foretold in one prophecy over 700 years before that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem – ‘and you little Bethlehem, though least among the tribes, out of you shall come One who is the ruler of all Israel. Little did Caesar Augustus know that he was being used like a pawn in God’s hand when he ordered a census to be taken at that time.

Life in Israel at that time was no cake walk. It was very difficult living under the oppression of Rome. Jospeh and May had to walk from about here to Williams lake just to get to the place of is birth, having no idea that all this was foretold.

Herod the Great was the King in power and he was cruel and oppressive, even killing all males two years and younger (including his own son), just to secure his place on the throne. Augustus reportedly said “I would rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.”

And in the wake of Herod the Great, Alexander the Great and Augustus the Great, no one even noticed Jesus the Baby. And it still doesn’t. Isn’t it amazing how we can celebrate the birth of someone and ignore it totally at the same time.?

We also sing “ohohh Star of wonder, star of night…” Do you know there is estimated 70 sextillion stars out there (that’s a lot of stars) whom God created, flung into space and called each by name. That means that the same One who created all of that, is the same one you see on the Christmas Cards as the little baby. He was the God man. Fully God, fully man.

Angels we have heard on High, is another perennial favourite Christmas carol. The angels sang Fear Not! For behold we bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all the people. Fear not. Give God glory and you will have peace on this earth.

Finally we sing What Child is this?

Have you looked into the manger lately? Really looked? That’s God with us – Immanuel. He said he would be there till the end of the age. Fear not. When times of trouble assail you fear not.

I see God – in the street, on the corner, in the gas station, God in the market, in the hospital, God all over the place because He is now with us. That’s why we say Merry Christmas, celebrating his coming as a babe and that’s why we say Maranatha, celebrating that He’s coming again, not as a new born babe, but as reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I wrote a song a few days ago… called The Way in the Manger…

D                                                   G                  D

Away in the manger, Christ Jesus born that day

D                                 G               A

Away in the manger, among the straw He lay

D                             G                    D

Away in the manger to save us from our sin

D                                                  G      A            D

Away in the manger our very soul to win

G                 A                     D

He’s the truth who came for me and you

G          A                    D

He’s the life abundantly and true

G                   Em          D                  Bm

He’s the Way in the manger given for us all

G               A                        D

Away in the manger, to break our fall

Up from the manger, he grew into a man

A carpenter’s son with nails in his hand

Up from the manger, he died upon a tree

This Carpenter man from Galilee