Happy Christmas! I wonder what you’ll be doing on this day of celebration? Apart from the presents, will you be spending time with relatives, family, friends and maybe enjoying a traditional Christmas meal? Food plays a large part in the festivities of all Christian cultures, whether the Western turkey dinner, or maybe it’s Eastern European carp or something spicy with rice that you enjoy. Perhaps it’s going to be a B-B-Q on the beach if you live in the Southern hemisphere.
I was reflecting on the story recorded in Luke’s Gospel of the birth of Christ. I noticed that three times the narrative refers to the fact that Jesus was placed in a manger when He was born. It seems strange to me that Luke doesn’t say that He was born in a stable, but only that He was placed in a manger. For most people the location of their birth is probably more important than the type of bed or cot that they were placed in! So why did Luke emphasise the manger?
The Greek word translated “manger” literally means an eating place (from the French word “manger” to eat) and although it’s used here for animal feeding, the word isn’t restricted to that. In the first century the animals were housed in a stable, which was either the lower ground floor of a house, or a cave underneath, or near to, the house. Matthew refers to the wise men visiting the house where Jesus then was (Matthew 2:11), and perhaps the stable was under this house. The manger would have probably been a stone trough, or a hollow made in the cave wall for holding animal feed.
Jesus was, therefore, present in this symbol of eating right from the start of his earthly life, and certainly there were many occasions when He enjoyed the fellowship of a meal with His friends, starting from the Cana wedding feast, and culminating in the celebration of Passover at the end of His earthly life.
We know that the manger symbolises humility, King Jesus starting life in a feeding trough. But I wonder whether God’s also encouraging us that He’s with us in our special meal times like Christmas, and also in our daily meals. Let’s remember to welcome Him, and thank the Lord as we gather for our meal times this festive season, and even if we’re on our own, perhaps with just the TV, I believe that Jesus is with us, and wants to bless us in our food fellowship! So have a happy Christmas Day, wherever you are and whoever you’re with.
Prayer: On this day of celebration we thank You, King Jesus, for Your lowly beginnings, and allowing Yourself to be placed in an animal’s feeding trough. Thank You, too, for being with Your friends at meal times, both when You were on earth, and now with us. We pray that You’ll let us know Your presence as we celebrate, and especially that You’ll be with those who’re alone this Christmas. Bless You, Emmanuel! Amen.