Each year, our culture pushes Christ out of Christmas more and more. But even when Jesus was born, His arrival and mission were resisted and the world at the time tried to keep Him out. As we reflect on Christ coming to earth, prepare your heart to allow God access to challenge you and get “into your business.” Ask Him to search you and know you.
As we reflect on Christ coming to earth, prepare your heart to allow God access to challenge you.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
Manger = A feeding trough inside an animal stall, which was located in a room adjacent to and slightly lower than the living quarters. Sometimes these were carved out of stone.
In these times, stables were often a part of the house, set aside to keep the animals safe and warm. But obviously, it would have been the stinkiest, dirtiest part of the house, and this is where Jesus came into the world. The lowly circumstances of Jesus’ birth were not an accident, but part of God’s eternal plan, a sign that Jesus would be the one to die and take away the sins of the world.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12
Pastor Miles challenged us today with a question: does God have access to your “manger”?
We all have our nice, presentable parts, but we also have a part of us that is nasty -- pride, ego, gossip, a critical spirit, bitterness, jealousy, fear -- things that few people even know about us. You may have a side that seems nice and good, “doing Christianity” or showing off for others or for God, but Jesus is more interested in the jealousy you’re feeling, your outbursts of anger, or how you’ve been critical of your siblings, your neighbor, or your co-workers. Jesus doesn’t want access to the nice part of your house, but the nasty part where He can bring light, hope, and healing.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Luke 5: 31
1. My nasty manger is...__________________.
(My actions: thought life, language, online sites, an unconfessed lie or crime, secret addiction, dysfunctional behavior, etc.)
What part of your life stinks up the rest of your life?
If you admit to God that you have some nasty mangers in your life, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t know about them. But He wants you to bring them to Him and give Him open access.
Or if you think you don’t have any nasty mangers, ask someone you love and trust to bring them to light.
2. My nice manger is ____________________.
(My actions: fake faith, phony smiles, “Praise the Lord,” “Who’s the Man?”, etc.)
This is the nice part of yourself that you want others to see, like a sofa covered in plastic to protect it; it’s all about appearances, but no one gets to experience the real thing.
It what ways are you putting up a front and keeping God and others out?
3. My manger is my attempt to satisfy my _____________________.
(My motivations: lust, selfishness, pride, ego, insecurity, racism, jealousy, empty heart, fear, etc.)
Pastor Miles’ friend taught him years ago a powerful leadership exercise that applies to many different kinds of relationships, called Stop, Start, Continue. Mutually ask one another: tell me something you want me to stop doing, something you want me to start doing, and something you want me to continue doing. Don’t be afraid of the revelation! Write it down and ask God to deal with it.
He can actually remove the cursing from your mouth and the anger from your heart. Ask Him for forgiveness and transformation.
4. Jesus, I give you permission to bring life to my manger.
What does bringing life to your manger look like? Purification? Organization? Management? Leadership?
The Biblical picture after Jesus’ birth is much like the picture after his death: He was wrapped in cloth and laid in stone. (Some mangers were carved from stone, just as Jesus’ tomb was.)
Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. Luke 23:53
The lowly circumstances of Jesus’ birth were not an accident. It was purposely orchestrated by God revealing that Jesus was born to die, rise, and give us an opportunity to live - not just to go to heaven, but to be purified and transformed. This only happens when you receive Him into your heart and give him permission to transform you.
Give Jesus access to your manger today. It was His purpose in coming - to rescue you from sin and bring everlasting life!