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.

Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?

MATTHEW 7:21 – 23
JESUS CHRIST said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 7:21).

What does it take then to enter the kingdom of heaven? In answering this vital question, let’s use the life of a great American to assess what doesn’t save and what does.

Consider the life of the 16th President of America, Abraham Lincoln. Was Mr. Lincoln a Christian?

After the war, Democrats attempting to undermine the reconstruction of the South painted Mr. Lincoln in scurrilous terms. By aristocrat Wendell Phillips, he was called “the white trash of the South spawned on Illinois,” ” a first-rate second-rate man…waiting to be used.”

Brahmin historian Francis Parker complained in 1862 that Mr. Lincoln was the “feeble and ungainly mouthpiece of the North.”

The “London Herald” wrote of him: “Mr. Lincoln is a vulgar, brutal boor, wholly ignorant of political science, or military affairs, or everything else which a statesman should know.”

New Yorker George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary that Mr. Lincoln was “despised and rejected by a third of the community, and only tolerated by the other two-thirds.”

Remember, it matters not what others think of us, but what we think of Christ that is important in the matter of salvation.

In 1806, Peter Cartright was the premier evangelist in rural Kentucky. Their rather primitive form of worship would seem strange by our standards. One night as Cartright was preaching in an outdoor meeting a young man jumped to his feet and began to dance in the joy of the Lord as King David had done before the ark of the Lord. His name was Tom Lincoln. A short time later a young woman, in praise of the Lord, jumped to her feet and joined in with the others dancing as unto the Lord. Her name was Nancy Hanks. Soon thereafter she married Tom Lincoln and three years later gave birth to a son. This Godly couple gave their son a Bible name Abraham.
Blessed is the child who has Christian parents. But that doesn’t save us.
Young Abraham was taught Scripture verses and Bible principles by his parents. As a young boy, the first of what seemed to be several untimely deaths occurred in his family. As his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, lay dying, her last words to her nine-year-old son were: “I am going away from you, Abraham, and I shall not return. I know that you will be a good boy; and that you will be kind to Sarah and your father. I want you to live as I have taught you, to love your Heavenly Father and keep His commandments.”

On several occasions when asked how he had declined a tempting bribe or resisted a strong suggestion to do wrong, Lincoln said he recalled the voice of his mother repeating, “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Mr. Lincoln believed the Bible. At a very early age he was taught the Bible. He memorized the Ten Commandments. Through his life there are many instances where his conduct was guided by one of the commandments. It was evident all through his life that he honored his father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.

A. The commandments motivated his honesty and integrity. He was so honest that as a young lawyer arguing a case he would even befriend his opponent. If the attorney arguing a case against him forgot a point, he would remind him of it. Thus, he became known as “the most honest lawyer east of China.” Part of this label lasted through his life, and he is still known as “Honest Abe.”

B. On an occasion he was heard to say, “When I am confronted with temptation, I can still vividly hear the tones on my mother’s voice saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought you out of Egypt. Thou shall not steal.”

C. He had a great regard for the Lord’s Day. At the approach of the battle of Falmouth General McDowell came to him on Saturday and said, “Sir, my troops are ready at a moment’s notice and can move out tomorrow.” The inquiry was made by General McDowell because he knew Mr. Lincoln’s regard for the Lord’s Day. The president replied, “No, give them the Lord’s Day of rest.”

He knew the Scripture well. In his great debates with Steven Douglas in 1858, he corrected his opponents incorrect use of Scripture several times.

He once told a friend who professed to be a skeptic, “Take all this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”

When presented a ceremonial Bible inscribed as being from “the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore,” he responded with these oft-quoted words, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

He had great regard for the commandments and sought to keep them. However, it is not by works of righteousness which we do that we are saved.

He believed that God works in the affairs of people. He believed God gave him a good body. His gaunt, pitted, sallow complexion made him unattractive to many. However, he responded physically with gratitude for a good body. Few know that he was the champion weightlifter in his parts as a young man. He was also the region’s champion wrestler and distance runner.

He believed it was God’s providence that enabled him to find a copy of Blackstone’s Law Book while rummaging through an old barrel. This book was the seed resulting in him becoming a lawyer.

He was a man of profound God-consciousness and morality in whose mind lived a vision linking the nation with the providence of God. He believed American ideals closely reflected the principles of divine morality.

His many defeats and ultimate victory he attributed to the providence of God. This alone, however, does not save.

After being elected President he left Springfield for Washington. A lady who loved the Lord and Mr. Lincoln prepared and hung out a large banner with his favorite Scripture verse: “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for I am with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Mr. Lincoln believed God was with him. Some years ago as guest of the President I had the liberty of staying in the Lincoln bedroom. Sitting there late one night I reflected that it was in this room on the morning of January 1, 1863, Mr. Lincoln called his Cabinet together. He had in his hand his characteristic tall, silk hat. He reached into his hat and pulling out a document placed it on the table and said, “Gentlemen, with this document I am prepared to free the slaves.” It was the Emancipation Proclamation. He continued, “I promised the Great God if He would give us victory at Antietam, I would so act.” He believed that at Antietam, one of the strategic battles of the War Between the States, the providence of God was at work in the affairs of the country. He acted to free the slaves out of gratitude.

In a letter to two Iowans who wrote him commending him for his bravery in freeing the slaves and assuring him of their prayers, he wrote he was “sustained by the good wishes and prayers of God’s people.”

In his first inaugural address, March 1861, Mr. Lincoln espoused the belief that “intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

He had confidence that even the war which he despised so strongly had a purpose and stated that he believed that God “permits it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

Perhaps the statement that best reveals his reliance on the providence of God was contained in an address to a delegation of Baltimore Presbyterians in 1863. To them he said, “Amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could see no other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.”

To a close friend he confided: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”


Biographers record that he never joined a church. If he was saved that means church membership doesn’t save…and it doesn’t. What did Mr. Lincoln believe about the – – –

For our beloved Lord to get to Calvary He had to go through Gethsemane. Mr. Lincoln had his Gethsemane. There was an occasion when a friend saw Mr. Lincoln sitting before a great fireplace with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. The friend listened as he prayed, “Oh God, oh God, help me, I cannot lead these people without your help, without you.” When the friend returned the next morning, the fire was but embers; but Mr. Lincoln still sat as he was the night before. This time the friend heard him pray, “Oh God, oh God, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.”

All of his life Mr. Lincoln was dogged by defeat, hounded by failure, and stalked by tragedy. Starting with the death of his mother at age nine, grief followed his footsteps like an unshakable shadow. Youthful love shared with Ann Ruthledge ended in heartache at her death. He experienced deep anguish at the death of his son, Eddie, at age four and later, as President, the death of his beloved son, Willie.

Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most prominent ministers of the day. Early one, cold, winter’s morning in the chill of night he was awakened by someone knocking at his door. Upon opening the door he found standing there Mr. Lincoln. The tall, lean, gaunt figure was so gripped with grief and agony that at first Dr. Beecher didn’t recognize Mr. Lincoln. As Mr. Lincoln poured out his soul to the minister, he said, “I think I shall never again be glad…”

A somber President soon thereafter made his way to the battlefield at Gettysburg where he was to deliver his most famous address. Many school children can quote those immortal lines. Historians remember well a letter he wrote soon thereafter which many persons do not know of. Soon after his Gettysburg address, he wrote a friend in Springfield. Therein he said, “When I came to Springfield, I was not a Christian. When I left Springfield to go to Washington and asked you to pray for me, I was not a Christian. When I came to Gettysburg, I was not a Christian; but there at Gettysburg, I consecrated my life to Christ.”

Remember the line from that address: “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…”

November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg where Mr. Lincoln spoke of new birth he experienced it personally through faith in Christ.

There at Gettysburg where he spoke of “dedicating ourselves to unfinished work…” he consecrated his life to Christ. Abraham Lincoln had endured the purifying fires of tribulation to come forth as gold.

This led him to acknowledge before his death: “…I am responsible…to the American people, to the Christian world, and on my final account to God.”

Thereafter, he sought to live and lead a nation to live by these words he quoted there from Scripture: “With malice toward none and charity toward all.”

Mark this date, Tuesday, April 13, 1865. That day Mr. Lincoln wrote a letter to Pastor Gurley of the church in Washington he had attended with increased regularity. In that letter he told of his saving faith in Jesus Christ. Note these lines from that letter dated April 13, 1865,: “On the forthcoming Lord’s day, I would like to make public my commitment.”

The date of the forthcoming Lord’s day would be April 18. Mr. Lincoln’s letter was mailed April 13. The day after the letter was mailed Mrs. Lincoln insisted that they get away from the pressures by going to a play that evening at the Ford Theater.

They arrived late and were seated in the Presidential Booth. During the course of the play the president’s bodyguard left his post to go to a nearby bar for a drink. During the play it was apparent to Mrs. Lincoln the President was preoccupied. Biographers record that during a lull in the play Mr. Lincoln leaned over and whispered to Mrs. Lincoln. “Mary,” he said, “Do you know the one thing in all the world I would like to do? I would like to take you on a trip with me to the Near East and we could visit Bethlehem where He was born.” Just then John Wilks Booth approached the Presidential Box unnoticed. The President paused. Booth raised his gun and the President continued, “We could go to Nazareth, Bethany…” Booth took aim as Mr. Lincoln said, “Mary, we could even go up to Jerusalem.” Just then a shot rang out. Mr. Lincoln slumped forward mortally wounded.

7:22 A.M., April 15, just three days before Mr. Lincoln proposed to walk the aisle of his church to make known his faith in Jesus Christ, Mr. Lincoln walked the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. He was blessed to do so because two years before his death, on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, as he later wrote, “There I concentrated my life to Christ.”

That is the only way for a president or any person to be saved. Have you ever made such a commitment? If not do it now.

Why God Created Children

(And In The Process Grandchildren)

[The following came in an email and the source is unknown.]

To those of us who have children in our lives, whether they are our own, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students…here is something to make you chuckle.

Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence did not extend to His own children.

After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve And the first thing he said was “DON’T!”
“Don’t what?” Adam replied.
“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said.
“Forbidden fruit? We have forbidden fruit? Hey Eve…we have forbidden fruit!!!!!”
“No Way!”
“Yes way!”
“Do NOT eat the fruit!” said God
“Because I am your Father and I said so!” God replied, wondering why He hadn’t stopped creation after making the elephants A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He was ticked!
“Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” God asked.
“Uh huh,” Adam replied.
“Then why did you?” said the Father.
“I don’t know,” said Eve.
“She started it!” Adam said
“Did not!”
“Did too!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.


If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven’t taken it, don’t be hard on yourself. If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would ld be a piece of cake for you?


1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.

2. Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your own children.

3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.

4. Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.

5. The main purpose of holding children’s parties is to remind yourself that there are children more awful than your own.

6. We child proofed our homes, but they are still getting in.

ADVICE FOR THE DAY: Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home one day.

Where Did God Come From?

Every parent has shuddered when asked by a child, “Where did God come from?”
Based on experience I am convinced most parents have a ready answer: “Let’s wait and ask the pastor.”

Children ask childish questions and deserve childish answers not long complicated ones. God has just always been. There never was a time when He wasn’t and there never will be a time He isn’t.

When thinking of time we think in a straight line. Physicists call it the arrow of time. (For more on this see the “Time Helps Us Understand Eternity” under Price Tags.)

To aid a child’s understanding holdup an object such as a pencil or piece of string. Explain to the child we tend to think of beginnings and ends. Point to the two ends. A day begins and a day ends. A new year begins and an old year ends. A child is born and an elderly person dies.

With God there is no beginning or ending.

Hold up a ring in such a way that the child can see through it. Then ask, “Where is the beginning and end of the ring?” Rings don’t have beginnings and endings. Neither does God. He just always has been.

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

Adam was the “first man” (I Cor. 15:45). Eve was “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). There was no pre-Adamic race. Cain was the first son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1). After he killed his brother Able he was fearful “others” might kill him (Genesis 4:14). It is said had a wife (Genesis 4:17).

From where did these “others” come? Genesis 5:4 says of Adam “he begat sons and daughters.” Adam and Eve had many children.

Later as the race developed for genetic reasons interfamily marriages were forbidden. At this early stage the gene pool was such that to initiate the expansion of the human race brothers and sisters married. There is no other explanation.

Adam lived to be 930 (Genesis 5:4). It is likely some of the offsprings were of such diverse ages that they were not reared in the same family setting.