Reflections on an Empty Manger
One of the main reasons I enjoy Christmas is the poignant reminder it gives us of the greatest event in human history: the incarnation of Jesus Christ. While I realize He most likely was not born in December, the celebration of His coming to earth is important just the same. We need a time to stop and consider how great the Father's love truly is, that He would send His only begotten Son to a desperately needy planet. A favorite passage of mine, which I often read around Christmastime, is John 1:1-18. In this opening of the gospel book that bears his name, John dwells on the wonder of how the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us". The Son of God humbling Himself to become a human, yet in His humility bringing with Him the life and light that only He can give. The Word who spoke everything into being, dwelling in the midst of His creation alongside His creatures. The Holy Spirit-inspired words penned by John never fail to stir me to awe and gratitude as I consider them. There is no one like Jesus. As spoken by Isaiah, He is "Immanuel" (God with us), a Saviour willing to come and offer Himself up as a sacrifice, and at the hands of the very ones He came to deliver.
Anyone May Come
How awesome is the King who came as one of the lowly, and was worshiped by shepherds and magi alike. Even the accounts of those who came to worship Him paint a beautiful picture of who He is. The shepherds coming to worship the Great Shepherd. The wise men coming to worship the Giver of all wisdom and truth. The small and great alike came before Him in adoration. In the same way now He still receives anyone who will come to Him, whether they are "somebody" in the eyes of the world or not. For "as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name".
A Work Completed
One of the greatest things about the story of Jesus' birth, however, is the reality that He did not remain a baby. Just as later on in His life the tomb was declared to be empty with the words "He is not here, but He has risen", I can also joyfully declare that the manger is empty. The Son of God come in the flesh fulfilled the reasons for His coming. Jesus grew into a man and walked among us, sharing in the joys, temptations, and trials that come with being human -- and yet was without the sin that so easily besets the rest of us. He ministered to the least of these, showing us the Father as only He could. Then, at the appointed time, He willingly took up the sin of the world and died the death that we deserve. Having made this perfect, acceptable sacrifice before God, He then completed His mission through His resurrection and ascension to the Father. The babe in the stable, the God-man, is now both Lord and Messiah, and He shall reign forever. Hallelujah! The manger is empty!
(All Scripture quoted is from the NASB)