Away To The Manger

LUKE 2: 1 – 20

JESUS CHRIST had existed in eternity as God. Knowing of our needs, He lovingly bid farewell to Heaven and prepared to “empty Himself” for His redeeming visit to earth. Knowing who that baby was that was soon to be found in a manger stall in the obscure town of Bethlehem helps our understanding of the drama of Christmas.The very word “eternity” reveals the absence of time. So before time began to begin He was God the Son abiding in a perfect Heaven with God the Father. It is no imposition on our imagination to consider His departure from Heaven. The holy angels that were themselves part of His creation might have gathered in one last assembly to have been told of His forthcoming advent, that is His earth adventure. This was truly to be an extraterrestrial visit beyond imagination. Perhaps He presented Gabriel a special citation for the good job he did informing Joseph of what was about to happen. A commendation for the calming way he addressed young Mary at the well and told her of what was coming.

Can you conceive of Him pausing before two bright and shiny angels and saying, “I’ll see you at the tomb. I’ll wait there for you three days.”

The heralds of Heaven, about to become the earthbound messengers, took their place on the turrets of time to announce the Messiah’s birth.

Let’s go AWAY TO THE MANGER and see for ourselves this which has come to pass.

On Capitaline Hill in Rome, 60 year old Caesar Augustus had been ruling for twenty-five years. His empire stretches from Briton to the Black Sea. From Gibraltar to Jerusalem. He lifts his hand and issues a decree that every citizen in the empire should return to the city of the forefathers to register and pay this tax. When he does a couple arises 1,500 miles away in the village of Nazareth to begin their 80 mile journey down the Jordan Valley to Bethlehem. They were going away to the manger.

Outside Bethlehem shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep at night. Suddenly an angel appeared to them. He must have looked like a tower of fire to them. He announced the birth of the Savior, Jesus. Theirs must have been an incredible blend of emotions. Soon that herald angel was joined by many other angels. Little wonder that after that the shepherds “came with haste” to Bethlehem. They were away to the manger.

Soon thereafter wise men in a country east of Bethlehem saw a strange star above them. As it moved westward they followed it to Jerusalem and inquired where Messiah was to be born. Tradition says there were three such wise men and even names them Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior. Upon being told where He was to be born they followed the star to Bethlehem.

That star was a symbol of hope and gladness. There is a line from a popular poem with these lines: “Man cannot live till he sees his stars through the cyprus trees.” Cyprus trees are a symbol of grief and despair. Only when in our grief and despair we have hope are we prepared for life.

Upon seeing that star the wise men were away to the manger.

Now let’s go away to the manger.

There in Bethlehem He became Mary’s boy-child. He, who in eternity was as old as His Father, was eons older than His mother. He, who leaned on the breast of His Father without any mother, now in time nursed at the breast of His mother without any Father. The coming of baby Jesus was God’s way of saying, “I love you.” YOU!

Christ’s absence from some of the select angels was short-lived for a few of them were to attend Him at His birth.

The angels having been associated with Christ before His birth knew something of His glory, honor, power, and majesty. They spoke:
“Glory to God in the highest…” This declares all the glory of God as shining forth in the birth of Jesus. In effect the angel was saying, “You are about to see God at His best.” All of His supernatural attributes are now going on display.

You want a hint of His power. Consider a virgin conceiving. This is a biological impossibility. Not really. It is simply God’s way of saying S U R P R I S E .

You want a peek at His grace and mercy; look in the manger. His grace speaks of Him giving us everything we need without us deserving it. His mercy speaks of His sparing us all the bad things we do deserve. Jesus is about to make all that possible.

“Peace on earth…” That sounds like an empty promise. Sounds almost laughable.

In the last 1,000 years there have been fewer than 50 years in which there has not been some active conflict in the world.

Peace is an alien in the Twentieth Century. The century opened with World War I, followed by another world war of even greater proportions within a generation. All that happened before the first half of the century was over. The rest has been punctuated with over 60 wars. At this very moment over 20 are in progress. Where is the proposed “peace on earth?”

King Sobhuza II of Swaziland was at the time of his death in 1982 the longest reigning monarch in the world. The Guiness Book of World Records noted he ruled for 61 years. He was a humble man, a follower of Christ. His land was known as a place of peace. That is exceptional.

Longfellow wrote a poem which was later set to music. It expressed the despair of those who look for peace in the wrong place.

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet their words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
Then it is as though enlightened by heaven he continued.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

The secret of the angels announcement is that it was not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace. Personal peace is found in Jesus Christ.

The angel gave the precondition for peace. It comes when we give glory to God in the highest. It doesn’t come when we win the arms race. It doesn’t come when we feel warm and fuzzy about our circumstances. It comes when we give glory to God and only then.

Years later one of His followers, Peter, would go about “preaching peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all…” (Acts 10:36.)

“Let the peace of God rule (umpire) in your heart…” Peace isn’t merely a principle it is a person.

This peace is possible because of God’s “good will toward men.” You can have peace because you are the object of God’s favor.

Having considered the FACT of God’s glory and man’s potential peace, take a look at the FORMULA.

A. A Savior
The term “savior” means the rescuer.

The angels making this announcement knew about the great truth they were blessed to announce. One of their leaders, Gabriel, had told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

He is a Heaven-sent love gift of the Father (John 3:16), given because He recognized our need to be:
NOTICED – That should give each of us dignity. God not only noticed us, He noticed our need for a Savior. He loved us so much He provided One.

Observe some of the bizarre behavior, unconventional grooming, and extremities in clothes and you are seeing a person crying out “Notice me!” Such is a sign of an insecure person with a sense of low self-worth.

NURTURED – We are not equipped to “go it alone.” He wants to help us.

In an interview with Tom Snyder in May of 1996, 31 year old actor Charlie Sheen told his reason for becoming a Christian. He said, “I was tired of walking alone.”

Being a Christian means you never have to walk alone. Even when you walk the path of adversity with Christ you soon learn it is the path to truth and love.

Robert Blake said, “God don’t give you no points for doing things you ain’t afraid to do.” He enables us to do them.

With Christ enabling grace you can smell the fragrance even when there is no rose.

NEEDED – God needs you. He has no other way to vocally acknowledge His loving presence. All of nature reveals Him but He is dependent upon you to declare Him.

In Steven Vincent Benet’s “A Child is Born” the innkeeper discovers they have turned away the Holy Family. His wife speaks:

“God pity us indeed, for we are human and do not always see the vision when it comes, the shining change,
or if we see it do not follow it because it is too hard,
too strange, too new, too unbelievably difficult,
warring too much with the common easy ways…
you who love money, you who love yourself,
you who love bitterness, and I who loved and lost thought I could not love again, and all the people of this little town rise up…the loves we had were not enough,
Something is loosed to change the shaken word and with it
we must change.”

That “something” is Someone and by Him we can be changed.

C. The Lord = KURIOS (Greek) = Jehovah = God = Hebrew = the God.

This is the term used by the Greek speaking Hebrews to refer to God, Himself.

Combined the titles mean: The Rescuer, the anointed One, God Himself.

There is no better time than Christmas to renew your commitment to Him. Let Him be your Savior and bring PEACE in your heart.

Over 100 years ago Queen Victoria of England also became the Empress of India. Punjab, then a province of India, became part of the British Empire. The little prince of Punjab who later was to rule his people gave the Queen a gift. It was the magnificent and priceless Kohinoor diamond. The Queen was grateful for and excited over the gift. She appropriately had it placed in the Tower of London along with her other crown jewels.

Years later, the young prince, now a man, visited Queen Victoria in England. He asked, “Your Majesty, may I see the Kohinoor diamond?”

With her common courtesy she dispatched her guards to bring the diamond safely to Buckingham Palace.

All present watched expectantly as the Queen handed it to him. With a deep bow he took it almost reverently and walked to the window. For a long time he gazed at it admiringly. He walked back to the Queen and knelt at her feet with the diamond clasped in his hands. Deeply moved he said:

“When I was a child I gave you this diamond. I was too young to know much about what I was doing. Now that I am a man, and knowing fully what I am doing, I want to give it you again in the fullness of my strength, and with all my heart and affection and gratitude.”

Perhaps you gave your heart to Christ some years ago. In so far as eternity is concerned that settles the issue. In so far as serviceability is concerned, perhaps you need to give Him your heart again NOW.