Summary: Angels' music, while sweet, was not designed to be a resting place for a baby's head. Since cribs are not found in stables, the only thing that could serve that purpose was something as simple as the feeding trough of the stable animals ... the manger.
The sun was setting over ancient Palestine, as it had done so many times before.
The wife of the manger-maker walked to the back door of the little workshop in the back of the house, as she had done so many times before.
She went there to tell her husband that the evening meal was ready. occasionally, she would pause to observe her husband deeply engrossed in his work. As she watched him moving around in the evening shadows of the setting sun, she noticed his full beard and head of hair seemed to turn more gray with each passing day.
When he raised his hammer and brought it down accurately and forcefully upon its intended object, she noticed the large veins protruding from his arms and neck.
The muscles in his strong arms had been preserved by years of physical work and conditioning.
She could remember when his hair had been as red as the rays of the setting sun.
She could remember when the veins were not so prominent in his hands and the muscle tone of his arms was even more sleek. How she loved this man!
There's had been a good marriage and the years had gone by quickly.
The wife allowed herself the luxury of remembering when she had been a fair young damsel and had been attracted to this young lad. She had met him one day
when she accompanied her mother to the village well.
She had seen him there with his mother. His finger was bleeding. Someone had left a broken water pitcher by the well and he had tried to rearrange the pieces together. He had cut himself on one of the jagged pieces of broken pottery.
For as long as she had known him, he had loved to fix things and work with his hands. What had started out as curiosity about things that could be carved from wood or made with stone had turned into a skill and then into a career.
The manger-maker had become a master craftsman and had become known throughout the region for the quality of his work. He believed that his work represented him, so he always tried to do it well. He was never out of work because his customers always came back. There were others who could do faster work and possibly fancier work, but no one could do any better work.
In addition to the constant work from old customers, there were always new customers who had heard of the old manger-maker's skill and would come from near and far with work to be done.
As his wife observed him and reflected on their life together, he looked up with a twinkle in his eyes. The twinkle was always there when he looked at her, even after all these years. He asked, "Is it suppertime already?" "Yes, time to wash up and come to eat. By the way, what are you working on so intently? Anything special?"
"No, just another manger. Reuben, who owns an inn down in Bethlehem, needs another manger. This new decree from Caesar Augustus, requiring everyone to return to their hometown to register for the census, has brought an unusual amount of business to Bethlehem and to Reuben's inn this year. He was telling me that he stays full just about all the time. He needs another manger for his guests' animals. This is no special project. It's just another manger."
The old workman soon finished the manger and inspected it, confident that he had done his usual quality job. This was far from being the first manger he had made and hopefully it wouldn't be his last. Since he had put his best effort into all of his work, this manger, from his perspective, was just another manger.
It wasn't necessary for the innkeeper who received the manger to inspect it too closely because he knew that the manger-maker wouldn't do shoddy work. The innkeeper knew that the insides would be hollowed out deep enough to hold sufficient hay and feed for the cattle and other animals who would eat from it.
He knew that there would be no cracks in its bottom or sides which would allow water to seep in. He knew that the manger would be strong enough to take the kicks and scraping from the hooves of the animals who would use it.
This was not the first manger that the innkeeper had ordered from the manger-maker and hopefully it wouldn't be the last. So for the innkeeper it was just another manger.
Just another manger; that's probably what the maintenance men at the Bethlehem inn thought as they carried it to the stable in back of the inn and found a convenient place for the feeding of the animals.
Just another superstitious Hebrew; that's probably what Pharaoh thought when Moses first showed up at his court with the command that God's people be set free.