IN A MANGER
“…You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2: 12
We all know the story. Mary and Joseph were fortunate to find shelter in Bethlehem, even if it was only the rude animal quarters behind the crowded inn. We know that Mary gave birth in the quiet, dark stable and, having no other option, laid the baby in the manger used to feed the animals every day. It makes a quaint picture and through the years we have made that image a Christmas icon.
Baby Jesus in a manger.
(I have a beautiful carved baby Jesus in a wooden manger. It must have belonged to a larger nativity set, but I found this one by itself in an antique store once. )
Baby Jesus in a manger.
Is there more to this image than just the circumstances of Mary’s “birthing room?” I wonder if God would have us ponder this image on another level.
The word ‘manger’ is from the French word meaning ‘to eat.’ In French Bibles, the word for manger is ‘mangeoir’ or a place for eating. What do you put in a manger? Food.
It occurs to me that Jesus is, on some level, food. John quoted some of Jesus’ thoughts on this in John 6.
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life.” John 6:35
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33
“ I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6: 48-51
“ Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
John 6: 57-58
Perhaps God smiled when he saw Jesus laid “in a manger’ knowing that Jesus would be living bread for all the world.
Just as we take in food to sustain physical life, we must take in Jesus to sustain spiritual life. Feeding on Jesus, our daily bread, we fuel a life that will never die, a life that grows more abundant and blessed with every passing day and year.
Christmas is more than a birthday with a surprising account of a baby’s birth. It is God delivering the bread of life to all people on the earth. And so it is fitting that this bread of heaven is laid in a manger. Come be filled with this bread of life.