Summary: What are Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds thinking as they look at the Christ? What are you thinking?


Perhaps the most well-known Christian symbol of Christmas is the manger scene. There are manger scenes in people’s front yards. Churches have manger scenes. Some people even put together live nativity scenes. What thoughts do you have, as you look at a manger scene? That is what we will be talking about this evening.

The first thing you notice about the manger scene is that everyone – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds – everyone is looking in the same direction. They’re all looking at the manger, at the baby lying in the manger. What do you think Joseph is thinking as he looks down at the infant? He’s probably recalling what the angel had told him earlier in a dream, that this child was not conceived from any man, but from the Holy Spirit. God is physically the father of the baby, not Joseph. Joseph is probably thinking about his responsibility of taking care of this holy child. Joseph is probably remembering that the angel had told him that this child should be named Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. As Joseph looks into that manger, I’m sure he had some questions: “How in the world am I supposed to be the stepfather to the Son of God? And how is this baby going to take away sins? How is this all going to work?”

What do you think Mary is thinking as she looked down at her son? She’s probably remembering what the angel Gabriel had said to her, that this baby would be called the Son of the Most High. God would someday give this child the throne of David. He was going to be a king, and he would reign forever and ever. I’m sure Mary is thinking about what her cousin, Elizabeth, had said to her, that she, Mary, was blessed to be the mother of the Lord. As Mary looks down at the manger, she probably has questions too: “How am I supposed to raise the Son of the Most High God? How would that work? And when will he become a king? Early in life? Later in life? How will he reign forever, since no one lives forever? How is this all going to work?”

And then there are the shepherds who had just arrived from tending their flocks in the fields nearby. What is on their minds as they look at the infant lying in a manger? They probably were thinking of what the angel had said to them, that this little infant is the Christ, the one that God had been talking about for thousands of years in the Old Testament. This little child is the Lord, Jehovah. He is the one who brings peace on earth. And there he is, lying in a manger, just as the angel said he would be. But as those shepherds look at that child, I wonder if they had questions too, questions like, “How can this little baby be the Christ? Wasn’t the Christ supposed to be greater than this? Shouldn’t the Lord Jehovah be born in a palace and not a stable? Why is it this way? How would he bring peace to this earth? What will he do? When will this happen?”

I’m sure many thoughts and many questions were flowing through the minds of these people standing around the manger that first Christmas Eve. There is one person missing from the manger scene we haven’t talked about yet. It’s not the wise men. Although they appear in many manger scenes, the Bible tells us that they didn’t arrive until much later, when Joseph and Mary and Jesus had moved into a house in Bethlehem. The person missing from the manger scene is you. You see, through the Word of God, through the eyes of faith, you are transported to the manger scene two thousand years ago. What would it be like, if you could literally go back and time and stand with Mary and Joseph and those shepherds in that stable in Bethlehem?

Where would you stand, first of all? How close to the manger will you dare to stand? When you look around, you are shocked to see how ordinary everything looks. Look at how poor and humble Mary and Joseph look! And the shepherds – they’re much rougher around the edges than you had imagined. And the barn – you cannot help but notice the smell of the animals. And that manger – it’s nothing more than an old feeding trough. This place is not as clean and the people aren’t as neat as the manger scenes you’re used to seeing.

And so there you stand, and you draw closer to the manger, and you dare to look right into the baby’s face, right into the eyes of the Son of the Most High. There he is, the Great Jehovah, the Savior of the World, looking at you, with that same look that all babies seem to have. What would you think? What would be in your heart?

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