Sunday, December 4, 2011

Take 5 with Kathy - "Away in a manger..."

The manger is central in my nativity scene
This familiar Christmas carol takes many of us back to our earliest childhood memories of Sunday school programs, pageants, and recordings by various musicians. As I mentioned last week, my manger scene is the first decoration I put up as we approach the Christmas season. As I was trimming my tree this week, I decided to focus my next few blogs on significant aspects of the story of Christ’s birth recorded by Luke in the Bible.  We read,
We celebrate Christ's birth

“While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7, NIV)

When I think back to my own son’s birth, it was a very cold January night with snow on the ground. But we were safe and warm in the relative comfort of a hospital with attentive nurses and doctors looking after us. I knew the best care was available and once my precious baby was taken to the nursery, I could start to relax and get much needed sleep and a little pampering.

Not so for Mary and the birth of her son, Jesus. Prophecy had revealed that the Saviour of the world would be born of a virgin and His name would be Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). He would also be called “Wonderful Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, and “Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6) For a baby with such noble and esteemed titles, one would expect a birthplace fit for a king…perhaps a palace or at least the home of a high official or aristocrat.
My favorite wooden tree ornament from Switzerland

It is evident from the verses above that Joseph had either arranged for the couple to stay at an inn or tried to find lodging once they arrived in Bethlehem. Because of the census being taken, it is likely all available rooms were filled and they arrived too late. Whatever the reasons, we know that God orchestrated all circumstances and individuals involved to accomplish His plan of sending His Son to this world. There was no vacancy at the inn and Joseph and Mary found themselves staying where animals were kept. Whether it was in a stable, cattle stall, barn, or cave we are not specifically told, but what we do know is that when Jesus was born, Mary lovingly wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.

A manger was a feeding trough for animals. I can’t imagine not having a warm, fuzzy blanket to wrap my newborn son in, let alone having to lay him down in scratchy, dusty hay or straw lining a box that animals had fed from and drooled all over. Then there would be the unpleasant smells associated with the animals which probably grazed and rested nearby.  It was no doubt cold, uncomfortable, noisy, unsanitary, and a very lonely place for a young woman to give birth for the first time. Had the couple been turned away simply because there was no room, or might they also have faced rejection due to Mary’s controversial conception or their lack of financial means?

Pewter tree ornament
We do know that when Jesus Christ came to this world, He would humble Himself, take on the very nature of a servant, and be made in the likeness of human beings. Eventually He would even submit His body to death on a cross so that through His shed blood He would make salvation from sin possible for all who believe in Him. (Philippians 2:6-8; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:22) Even Joseph knew that the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ birth would be to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) Mary would also have been familiar with the prophecies regarding the Messiah’s birth, so when the angel announced to her that she would be the mother of the Son of God, she humbly submitted to the will of God. (Luke1:30-38)

My first nativity scene purchased
A manger…obscurity, loneliness, humility, submission…God’s way of providing for our salvation and future with Him. That’s what I marvel about as I lovingly handle and find special places for my manger ornaments each year.

Until next Sunday,


P.S. Thanks to my hubby for taking these pictures!



  1. Kathy, as a small child, my very first year in Sunday school, this was the song we performed in the Christmas concert. I remember it very well. I cried through the whole thing. The teacher had to take me to my mother. My reason for crying was that I thought it was such a very sad song. I felt bad that the baby Jesus had "no crib for a bed". Still to this day, each time I hear that song begin, I feel sad. However, I have a love for nativity scenes. You have some really nice ones. What a treasure that ornament from Switzerland is! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Tanya,

    Thank you for sharing this post. That was a song I long remember learning in school. Pat

  3. Such a wonderful post, Kathy. Thank you for reminding me what Christmas is all about!


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