Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Dirty Manger of Encouragement

"And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." - Luke 2:12

It constantly amazes me how God chose to present the greatest gift the world has ever known. Jesus, the Savior of the world, arrives as a helpless crying baby tucked in the animal stall during the chaos of a worldwide census. Not quite the arrival that I would have chosen...but then again, there are many other reasons to be glad that I am not God!

I would have guessed that God at least would provide a canopy bed, a fancy crib, footie pajamas and the like to ensure that baby Jesus was warm and safe. Actually, it was quite the opposite. Have you ever truly contemplated what a manger would be like? It was the slop trough for the animals - pigs, donkeys, horses, mules, etc. Too often we see the clean version of the Christmas story and miss the more realistic picture. It would be the equivalent of Jesus being born today in the back alley behind Motel 6 and laid in a dumpster. Not quite fit for a king, right?

The crazy part about this is how similar this often is to our own lives. We spend so much energy working to only show the cleaned up, socially acceptable versions of our lives. Social media is filled with people telling us how amazing their lives are and, if we are not careful, we can begin to believe that we have the only life that doesn't fit in stained glass. We know the mess, we see the brokenness, we are aware of the slop, and we are unable to see the beauty of God's plan of redemption for our lives.

May I encourage you to spend a bit more time this Christmas season picturing the manger filled with sloppy leftovers than the manger depicted in most Nativity scenes? As you do this, enjoy the encouragement that begins to arise through the realization that God is at work in the mess of life. He does not do things as we would (can I hear an amen?!?) and His standards do not match the superficial calling of the world.

If a dirty, messy, sloppy, broken manger could hold the King of kings and Lord of lords. If this same manger could become one of the most well-known symbols of Christmas. If this manger could hold the very Source of hope and blessing for each of our lives, then is there not hope for our mess to possibly be part of God's master plan for us and our families?

Let us not see our dirty mangers as the world would see them - let us remember the God of the universe does things a little bit differently and that encouragement can come in the form of angels singing in the crisp night sky...but more often it comes in the midst of the dirt and grime of everyday life. Merry Christmas and enjoy your dirty manger this year!

Dear Lord, I am so grateful that You do things differently than I would. You did not need a palace or an entourage or a social media campaign to announce the birth of the Savior. You take that which the world discards and You bring hope and life and encouragement. Thank You for dirty mangers! Bless us this year, help us to see Your hand at work in our mess, and may we be encouraged throughout this Christmas season. Amen.

~ Mike

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, spot on, I was preaching something similar this morning, which is why I came across the blog when I was writing my sermon. I like the non-Kosher picture too!