Summary: A message of how a loving God made Himself smaller for us, so that we could grow larger in Him through Jesus Christ.
I heard the story once of a great Cherokee wood carver. He took logs and sat them on a stump outside his back door and sat in front of that log sometimes for hours just staring at it. Finally, he would pick up his carving tools and start carving the most beautiful of things out of the wood.
He was known for his intricate details in feathers of eagles, or the look of sadness in the eyes of the faces he carved. A tourist once asked him how he decided what to carve, and the young man said that he looks for the picture that is already in the wood, then just takes the excess wood away, leaving the beautiful finished image. He said people would continually ask him how he came up with the ideas as to what he was going to carve.
People are curious about everything. For hundreds of centuries, people wanted to know what God looked like, too. Many thought He might have the face of a demanding judge or strict disciplinarian. It seems we always put the face on God that we fear the most.
On a Christmas eve, some 2,000 years ago, God took off His mask and showed the world what He looked like. He let us see Him how He really looks. We have all hard what we call “the Christmas Story”, and we all feel very comfortable with Jesus in a manger, don’t we? But we must be very careful, too.
Just as God will use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, the enemy will also try to use everything good to destroy us. I think the biggest difference between God and Satan (other than one being good and the other one evil) is that God does things out in the open. He hides nothing to those who want to see it. But the devil is always lurking in the hidden shadows. He works in the dark and doesn’t want anyone to see what he is doing, for fear of being rejected.
We must be careful because there is danger in the manger. Let me explain. It has been proven that if you drive the same route to work every day for a number of years, you become so used to it, you stop paying attention, and start letting your mind wander off the potential hazards and onto more pleasant thoughts.
In the same way, those of us who have been in church for many years sometimes find the story of Jesus so familiar, so route, that we actually become resistant to the meaning of the manger. Just like driving that same route to work, we become so used to the manger that we stop paying attention to it and just go through the motions; we actually let ourselves become immune to the birth of Christ. And when we do that, we open ourselves to all kinds of dangers.
Are we so used to the story that we miss the Christ in it? Are we so used to the story that we don’t see how God really looks?
It was Christmas time again, and the little girl watched as her mother was so busy scheduling parties and get-togethers with family and friends that she had no time to relax. Her father was also busy putting up the outside lights and decorating the yard for Christmas that he, too, had no time to relax.
In fact, the little girl noticed how they kept telling her to get out of their way as they worked. This made her feel very lonely at the time of year everyone should feel included, so she prayed that God would forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.
Christmas should not be a time of rushing, but a time of loving. And that brings us to the heart of this morning’s message.
1. IT REVOLVES AROUND A MANGER – BUT WHY?
I am sure that if God had asked me to plan the entrance of His Son into this world, I would have never chosen a cold stable with a manger for a cradle as a back drop. But in that lowly setting, we actually find the true simplicity of our Lord.
The mystery of Christ is beyond all human understanding, but because we have gotten so used to the story, we somehow have overlooked the mystery and have taken the birth of Christ for granted. Somehow, we seem to think we deserve it, or in some way have earned it. But the God who revealed Himself that night did it in such a way as to show His true personality. He did it not because of anything we are, but because of what He is.