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A BABY IN A MANGER

Luke 2:1-2:14
Key Verse: 2:7

I prayed to God for good weather today for our Christmas worship service. We have a cold day. I am thankful to God because we can think about the baby Jesus in a COLD manger.

Today we are gathered here to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus who came to the world 2 millennium years ago. We would like to think about why the baby was placed in a manger.

Verses 1-3 describe the political situation of the time when Jesus was born. Caesar August, the Roman Emperor, issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. The purpose this census was to collect tax from all the people of the Roman world, including Judea and Galilee.

This decree forced everyone to go to his/her ancestor’s town to register. Joseph’s home was in Nazareth, in Galilee. He had to travel about 80 miles to Bethlehem the town of David, because he was a descendant of David. Mary, Joseph’s fiancée, had to travel with him when she was in her full pregnancy.

Verses 6-7 tell us, “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 room for them in the inn.”

When Caesar, the Roman Emperor, wielded his power, the poor couple had to travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the baby was placed in a manger. Where is God in this picture? God fulfilled the prophecy that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. In fact, when Caesar wielded his power, God wielded the Emperor to fulfill what was prophesied. God is the Sovereign Lord who even incorporates the political situation of the world to carry out his redemptive work.

Let us now think about the baby in a manger. Why was the baby Jesus placed in a manger? The Scripture says that there was no room for them in the inn. If God were the Sovereign Lord, could he not prepare a room for the baby in Bethlehem? Of course, he could. But the question is not about what God could, but about what he willed to do. It was God’s will for the baby to be placed in a manger.

Let us think about the question deeper: Why was baby Jesus placed in a manger? A manger can be found in a stable which is a dwelling place of livestock. I grew up in countryside and my family raised an ox in a stable. The ground of the stable is hard and hay was scattered everywhere. No insulation from cold air. The sable is filled with the stench of animal urine and dung. A manger is an animal’s feeding trough usually with food leftover at the bottom. That’s the reality of the manger. Baby Jesus was placed there. Why did he come to the world in such a way? What message does God want to bring to us in this scene? We may consider in a few ways.

First, Jesus in a manger reveals his humility.

When we observe Jesus’ life on earth, he was a friend of sinners. Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Lk 9:58) He lived a humble life. What about his death? He was betrayed, flogged, mocked, and crucified. Jesus did not come to enjoy earthly glory. He came to reveal his humility. The most fitting place for the baby Jesus was not a palace or throne, but a manger. Why did he reveal his humility? It is for our sake. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus was rich. His richness is not like Bill Gates or Donald Trump. He is the Creator of the world and owns everything in the world. Yet he became poor until he was placed in a manger and he had no place to lay his head. All this happened so that we might become rich through his poverty. We find the grace of our Lord Jesus in his humility. Do you feel poor or miserable? Do you feel inadequate about yourself? Or struggle with low self esteem? Come to Jesus! In Jesus’ humility, there is wealth of God’s grace. Jesus became poor and was laid in a manger to make us rich in God’s grace. He touches our hearts and assures us how precious we are in the sight of God.

Second, Jesus in a manger understands us.

There is a saying, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” There was a heart-moving story of a man of God who had deep compassion for lepers. He moved to a lepers’ town to live with lepers, eat with them, and share God’s love with them. He was willing to do anything for lepers. But lepers did not accept him. They said, “You just don’t understand us because you don’t have leprosy like us.” The man injected leper’s blood into his system to understand them and developed leprosy in his body. Then all the lepers were deeply moved and cried with tears.

Look at the baby Jesus in a manger. He put aside all his glory and honour in heaven. He came from heaven to this earth to understand us. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus became fully human in every way. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. In order to understand our problems, he was tempted in every way, yet he did not sin. Jesus put himself in our shoes. He came to understand us. What problems or agonies do you have? Physical pains, pains in our hearts? Who can understand my agonies? Come to Jesus. Tell Jesus all the problems and agonies you have. Jesus understands no matter what problems I am agonizing with. He will comforts us, restores our hearts, and fills our hearts with heavenly joy.

Third, Jesus in a manger invites us.

If the baby Jesus were born in a palace, who could approach him? Only royal family. He was in a manger. Anyone can come to a manger freely. We don’t have to wash our hands or feet to come to a manger. It does not require any form of etiquette to come to a manger. We can come to Jesus just as we are. Even animals in the stable can approach the manger. This indicates that anyone who lived like an animal can come to Jesus. Jesus invited the criminal hung beside him on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) Jesus invites us whoever we are.

We are living in a generation of individualism. Think about how most of us communicate with each other. In the past, most communications were done through face to face conversations. Since the introduction of TV, people spent more time watching screens. But still they spent time together in their living rooms. What about today? With computers, we spend more time with individual screens in our own private spaces. With smart phones, many of us use more text than talking. There are five family members in my family. Each of us goes his or her room and does something with computer or phone. Often I don’t know what’s going on among my family members. Our generation is much more individualistic than a generation ago. In this individualistic world, people become lonelier because we don’t share our problems with others. Think about how many friends do you have with whom you can share your personal problems and agonies. How do you deal with your problems and agonies? Many spend hours and hours a day surfing Internet. Many resort to games, pornography, alcohol, and drug. These make our life more miserable and separates us from God. Jesus invites us. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) Jesus came to invite us and have fellowship with us. Jesus invites us to his manger, to his cross, and to the eternal kingdom of heaven. Let us accept his invitation.

Fourth, Jesus in a manger loves us.

Jesus in a manger reveals his humility, understands us, and invites us. The baby in a manger is so vulnerable. What does the word “vulnerable” mean? It means susceptible, weak, defenceless, helpless, exposed, in danger, or at risk. Why did he become so vulnerable? C.S. Lewis said, “To love is to be vulnerable.” When we love someone so dearly, we can be vulnerable because of love. God loves us so dearly until he became vulnerable and was placed in a manger as a baby.

Some people say that among different loves on earth, the one that is the closest to God’s love is mother’s love. That is true. Because of deep love for children, mothers become vulnerable. I see this in my family. When I see our children’s misbehaviours, I rebuke them to repent. But my wife is different. You know what she says when she is upset? “I have something to tell you. You come here… Did you... eat something?” Because of her deep love for her children, she becomes vulnerable.

To love is to be vulnerable. We can see this in “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. The Lion Aslan has mighty power to destroy the evil one, the White Witch. But the Lion does not use his power in order to save a betrayer, Edmund. Instead, the Lion offers himself to be killed. The powerful Lion did not even resist while the enemies mocked him, pierced him, and killed him. The Lion was so vulnerable because of his love for one sinful man. In the end, the Lion rose from the dead.

Likewise Jesus became vulnerable because of his love for us. On the cross, he could have called 12,000 angels to destroy the enemies. He did not use the power that calmed the furious storm with one command, “Be still.” He did not use the power that fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. He did not use his authority that raised the dead man Lazarus. Jesus knew that using his power is not the solution. Rather, sacrificing his life for sinners is the way to save us. So Jesus made himself vulnerable because of his love. There was no other choice for Jesus.

Look at the baby Jesus in a manger. In the beginning, with his hands he created the world. Now his tiny hands are being held by his mother Mary. With his breath, he breathed into the nostrils of the man he created and man became a living soul. Now his face was pale until his first breath on earth. With his feet, he walked in the Garden of Eden and called Adam, “Where are you?” Now his tiny feet are wrapped in swaddling cloths and could not move. With his mouth, he gave the 10 Commandments to Moses. Now the baby is totally dependent on Mary’s breast feeding. The baby in the mange is cute and funny.

Why is the baby Jesus there in a manger? It is God’s love that caused Jesus to be there. He is there to understand us and to invite us. He is there to forgive our sins and take us to his eternal kingdom. Thank you, Jesus.

Among all the problems, the problem of love seems to be the universal one. Everyone wants love. Who does not need love? Everyone is hungry and thirsty for love regardless of age and culture. What is most popular topic in songs, novels, and movies? It is love. When I was in college before I knew Jesus, I thought if I met a girl who could be vulnerable because of her love for me, I would be the happiest man in the world. When I come to Jesus, Jesus quenches my thirst for love. The baby in a manger is the expression of how much he loves me. Jesus on the cross is the expression of how much he loves me.

Hymn #79. “There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, The wonder as sunrise I see; But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me. O the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all- Just to think that God loves me! O the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all- Just to think that God loves me!

Let us come to Jesus and renew his love in our hearts.

Jesus’s Identity.

It was a quiet visit of the Son of God to the earth. But the heaven did not remain quiet. An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds taking care of flocks at night. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angel tells them the identity of Jesus. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Here, baby Jesus’ identity is mentioned in three ways: Savior, Christ, and the Lord. Let us think about one by one.

Savior. When God came down to earth before, there was thunder, the mountains shook, and the earth trembled because of God’s holiness and majesty (Ex 19). His people only could come to him through sacrificial system. Now God came to the world as a Savior. He came to save us from our sins (Mt 1:21).

Christ. Christ in Greek (Messiah in Hebrew) means “the anointed.” Three officers were anointed in the Old Testament: prophet who delivered God’s message to his people, priest who came to God on behalf of his people, and king who governed his people. Christ means these threefold offices are in one person, Jesus.

Lord. Lord (Kurios in Greek) is tantamount to Jehovah who is the Infinite and the Almighty. The Lord created the world. The Lord led his people out of Egypt. The Lord sent prophets to his people. Now the Lord himself came down to the world as a baby and is placed in a manger.

What is our attitude to this Lord? We worship him. We offer our love, our hearts, honour, adoration to the Lord. The Wise men came far away from the east to worship this Lord. We submit ourselves to the Lord so that he may rule our hearts with love and truth. The baby Jesus in a manger is our Saviour, Christ, and the Lord. Let us worship him.

Charles Kim

December 15, 2013

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