Guest Post: The Simple Manger by Danielle Bouse

Christmas is less than a week away…five days to be precise! All of a sudden, we went from pumpkin spice, turkey, and pie and then WHOA! It’s lights, music, gifts, wrapping paper, bills, budgeting, more lights, parties, sweets, baking, making, and of course more sweets! It’s like a swirling dervish of lights, ornaments, cookies, and wrapping paper.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like life goes from 0 to 60 in only a couple of days. Calm to organized chaos! From I am so thankful for my family to ahhhhh! What am I going to get Aunt Cindy and Grandma for Christmas? And wait, what do you mean the lights from last year don’t work?

It’s a time of year when we’re surrounded by distractions and we’re pulled in just about every direction possible due to holiday and family commitments. And yes, I love those commitments. I mean, I’m not about to say no to the desserts that fill our tables this time of year.

But…I want to show you a picture:

Simple Manger

Simple, isn’t it?

It didn’t start out with lots of Christmas lights or wrapping paper. It started with straw. With a mom about to give birth in hay. And when the angels told Mary she was to give birth to a king, I’m sure she wasn’t thinking in a stable! But a stable and straw it was.

So amid all the shopping, cookies, and Christmas lights, find time to enjoy the simple, because the Savior of the world came by simple means.

Remember the Christmas carol?

Away in a manger

No crib for His bed

The little Lord Jesus

Lay down His sweet head

The stars in the sky

Look down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus

Asleep on the hay

Of all the people who deserve Christmas pomp, it’s Jesus. But our Savior humbly laid his little head on hay. Our Savior in such simple beginnings…all for His love for us.

So as we delight in the lights, family, friends, and saying YES to the amazing Christmas desserts, remember the simple manger.

Remember the Savior.

 


See the Baby Jesus

I love Christmas. The music, lights, and decorations. The tree and the ornaments, the Christmas village, and especially the nativity scenes. Of all my Christmas decorations, my favorite is a large tabletop display that includes a manger set in the midst of a hustling, bustling Bethlehem.

A friend has a tradition regarding the nativity scene to remind her young family of the central focus of Christmas. She sets up the crèche with Mary, Joseph, the animals, and the shepherds. On Christmas morning, they read the Nativity story and one of her children places the baby Jesus in the manger. Then they sing a Christmas carol such as Silent Night or Away in a Manger.

Think about our Christmas carols. What do most of them have in common? A baby. Cute. Helpless. Non-threatening. Christmas overflows with images of a Babe whose first bed was a livestock feeding trough.

Baby Jesus

The images are there, but it seems the Babe in the manger is being pushed out of His own birthday. Why are people so against the One whose birthday we celebrate?

Because He did not stay a baby. Jesus grew up and went about His Father’s business. He stepped on toes. He pushed people’s buttons—especially religious people.

He’s still stepping on toes and pushing our buttons by touching the idols that compete with Him for our attention and worship. Even the religious activities that make it easy to avoid intimacy of relationship with our heavenly Father.

Yet that’s the reason the Word became flesh. The God of the universe took human form—not as an adult, but as a helpless baby. Still, when Jesus was born, something happened beyond the simple birth of a baby. The infinite, sovereign, creator God chose to temporarily limit Himself within the body of a finite human being.

J.I. Packer wrote, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”

Charles Stanley put it this way: “Christmas is that moment in time when God, in His unconditional love, stepped out of heaven onto earth, in order that we might one day step out of earth into heaven.”

And C.S. Lewis wrote, “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”

If you think of Jesus Christ as nothing more than an innocent baby surrounded by animals and shepherds, then your Jesus is too small. And if your Jesus is too small, your problems are too big. Your temptations are too powerful. A world filled with terrorism is too fearful. And your hope is swallowed up in despair’s darkness.

But John, the gospel writer, tells us Jesus is both life and light. His light cuts through our darkness. Here’s another description of Jesus from Revelation 1:12-18 (NIV):

Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus is not just a baby anymore. He is the glorious, majestic Son of God! There isn’t a manger big enough to hold Him anymore because the universe itself isn’t big enough to hold Him.

What will you do with Jesus Christ? I’m not talking about the baby lying on a manger. I’m talking about the Son of God who bring light and life.

Will you surrender to, and honor, the Son of God who entered this world as a tiny baby, but didn’t stay a baby? Then, during this Christmas season, will you purpose to tell someone else about your Savior?

This is the Baby whose birth we’re celebrating!


All You Need is Love…Not!

In 1967, the Beatles had a hit with their song, “All You Need is Love.” That song became a theme for the 60s and 70s. Love is all the world needed to solve its problems, or so the song claimed.

About that time another refrain became popular: “God is love.” It’s one of the few Bible verses quoted with regularity by those who aren’t even sure God exists…but if He exists at all, He must be love. From there it’s a small step to claiming that since God is love, nobody will go to hell because a loving God would never let that happen.

Even parts of the Bible seems to support these statements. We read in I John 4, “God is love” (v. 8, 16), and “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (v. 18).

So is it true that our loving God will not punish us for our sin? Not so fast…

We sometimes forget that God is not just love, He is holy, too. His attributes can never be separated. Love and holiness. Someone once said that the love of God cannot accept what the holiness of God cannot tolerate. All the love in the universe will never make up for the stench of our sin that rises to a holy God.

There is a coming judgment. It’s not politically correct to say so, but John wrote in that same passage, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus” (v. 17). It’s not love that spares us from judgment, it’s what love did that spares us from judgment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

Love gave. Love gave.

Love reached down in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped into the darkness of a creation marred by sin, and paid the price for our sin.

God is love…and we don’t have to face the judgment that awaits all sin. Because God became a baby in a manger who grew up to be a man on a cross, we need never fear again. The perfect love of God – the perfect love that is God – has cast out fear forever.

This is why I can say with a full heart,

Merry Christmas!


Are you celebrating this Christmas with the assurance that you have responded to God’s love?