“If you could communicate anything with Zoey (our puppy) – and she could understand it – what would it be?” That was the question posed by my young son to our family. We gave answers such as, “I would tell her to stop barking!” and “I would say stop chewing the furniture!” Quietly, answering his own question, he replied, “I would tell her that I loved her.”
Is that not the message and miracle of Christmas: God telling the world, “I love you”?
The miracle of the manger is told to Joseph when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23)
Yes, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the miraculous birth of this Child, planned in the heart of God from the beginning (see Genesis 3:15) when he said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
It is through this miracle that we see the message of the manger:
“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.” (John 3:16)
What love was “birthed” in the heart of God and then birthed in the manger so long ago! “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
And that is the miracle – and the message – of the manger to this day: adoption, sonship is made possible and is available to all who believe! Yes, because Love came down at Christmas, not just to live, but to die (see Philippians 2:5-8), we can become children of God (see John 1:12).
Later in the life and ministry of Jesus, we read: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” (John 1:45-46)
That is the invitation that has been extended to us and that is to be extended through us: “Come and see! Come and behold the miracle of the manger. Come and marvel at its message: that God became flesh and dwelt among us; that He was born so that we might never die; that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life; that a Savior has been sent to save His people from their sins.
In what may be the busiest week of the year, may we continue to marvel at the manger.
As we wrap the gifts, may we remember Him who is the greatest gift.
As we wash the floors, may we thank Him for washing away our sins.
As we wait in long lines, may we marvel at His patience towards us.
As we shop and cook the food, may we consider Him, the Bread of Life.
As we welcome in guests, may we remember Him who first welcomed us.
And for those with less gifts to buy and less guests to welcome, the hearts that are lonely and longing, hurting and heavy, remember this One whose name was foretold who would be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. In Him is all that is wonderful. In Him is your peace. He is your mighty God and your everlasting Father. May the manger be more meaningful to you this year than ever before.
Let us not lose sight of that Babe: wrapped in swaddling cloths but in whom really is wrapped the hope of the world; who Mary held in her arms but in whom the whole world is actually held in His; who caused shepherds and angels to glorify God and wise men to present their worship and treasures. May we, too, respond with such awe and rejoicing, seeking and presenting (ourselves) to the One who is the miracle and message of the manger, both this Christmas and beyond.