THE MANGER BECOMES THE CROSS

cross-and-manger

 

 

The Manger Becomes the Cross by Rick Burdette

Luke 2:1-2:7

THEN AND NOW – The Manger Becomes the Cross
Luke 2:1-7 (pg. 715) December 6, 2015

Introduction:

An anonymous poet wrote:

“A baby born in Bethlehem
His hands, soft and gently curled
But held within their dimpled grasp
The hope of the entire world.”

Have you ever noticed that when famous people have a baby the world goes a little crazy…when Prince William and Kate Middleton have a child it’s a worldwide celebration that is front page news. When Prince George was born in July of 2013 the press went crazy and when his sister Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana joined him in May of this year…the world cheered…They seem like a beautiful couple…sincerely in love…but I’m pretty sure all the notoriety can be tiresome. I’m sure the continuous pursuit of the paparazzi is draining.

This was not a problem that Mary and Joseph had to endure. The world couldn’t have cared less about the birth of a little Jewish baby to a working class carpenter and his young wife…I promise you that the world was focused on Caesar Augustus…and his census…and more importantly the taxes that went along with it.

Rome and everything under its control was focused on getting home, how much trouble it would be, and how much it was going to cost to do it. Who cares about babies when important stuff like this is happening.

“Everyone went to their own town to register.” Rome didn’t care whether you were pregnant, poor or not…This was not a request…it was an order issued by Caesar…and carried out by governors like Quirinius of Syria.

So Joseph and Mary leave Nazareth in Galilee and head to his hometown of Bethlehem in Judea…it’s a trip of about 90 miles, through rugged terrain….in the weather….it would take them about a week. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Mary rode or they both walked. Just that they got there. We don’t know how long before the birth they arrived, just “while they were there the time came for the baby to be born.” (v. 7)

Even if they arrived a month early Mary was 33-36 weeks pregnant…during the trip.

[The only time I feared for my life concerning my wife Kari was during the birth of our second son Tyler. She’d been in labor for 20 hours…not much sleep, a lot of discomfort and we were trying breathing exercises to take her mind off of it…and it struck me as funny…(I know, like getting tickled at a funeral) I couldn’t help it and I laughed…she grabbed me by the neck and said, “If you laugh again…I will kill you!” I said, “Yes, honey and didn’t.]

Tyler was fine, so was Kari…and in a clean sterile hospital, Central Baptist…our baby was cared for…and so were we…but

I. FOR THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD THERE WAS NO ROOM

There is no innkeeper turning them away in scripture…we don’t know if Jesus was born in a stable or a cave or animal yard…We don’t know if angels looked on with animals…or even what time of day it was…but we do know…

“There was no guest room available for them.”

Bethlehem was packed with people…everyone had come back home to complete the census. And no one gave up their bed…no one made space for this couple…and the birth of this child…There was no room.

It is hard for me to imagine a more humble birth than this. It’s hard for me to imagine Cyndi and Rodney showing up at the hospital, she is in pain, Rodney with great concern for his wife and Brix…and being turned away…“There’s no room, sorry…figure it out on your own.”

So Joseph and Mary did, she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.

A manger…an animal feeding trough.

The angel would send the shepherds later telling them:

“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

Signs are really, really important. They tell us what’s coming…whether it’s STOP, Road Work, or Dead End.

You see the sign first…and then comes the reality…Signs deliver information about things coming up…If you don’t ignore them.

The Shepherds didn’t…neither should we. The sign was important then and it’s important NOW.

What kind of sign is a manger?

II. IT’S A GOOD NEWS SIGN FOR EVERYONE

The real meaning of Christmas is found in God’s plan to save mankind from their sins…not only does Christmas involve the manger story…it also points to a cross…one wooden object would hold “Mary’s newborn Lamb”…and one wooden object would hold the perfect Lamb of God, dying then to take away the sins of the world. The real meaning of Christmas is the miraculous story of God’s plan to rescue us by becoming one of us…Immanuel!

It’s a story of good news with great joy for EVERYONE!

It probably didn’t seem like “good news” immediately to the shepherds…even though they were amazed at all they’d seen and heard…even though they glorified and praised God for all of the things they’d experienced. They returned to their jobs…they knew about mangers…I wonder…were any of them still alive 33 years later? Or had they shared their miraculous story with their children with such fervor…that at the cross “they wondered…“How can this be good news now?”

Christmas doesn’t seem like good news and great joy for everyone I meet. The homeless drunk I sat talking with last week wasn’t experiencing too much good news and joy, neither was the woman who was facing the first Christmas after her Dad’s death, or the guy who was trying to figure out where his kids would be on their Christmas after his divorce… The songs seem kind of hollow…the shopping is a chore, the cold doesn’t get any warmer because someone says “Merry Christmas.”

But I believe with all my heart Christmas was made for those with a broken heart, not the false, glitzy, tensile thing we sometimes call Christmas, but the real Christmas. You will not find the good news of great joy in a diamond box on the restaurant table that makes you go “Oh my Gosh…Oh my Gosh!” you will not find hope in the S.U.V. stuffed in a giant stocking under an even more gigantic Christmas tree, You won’t discover it in a bottle, or the eggnog, it’s found in God’s plan and His purpose, no matter how difficult the circumstances might look.

With earthly signs you get the information and the result almost immediately…when you see the 20 mile an hour curve sign…the curve is just moments in front of you…God’s signs…many times take a while. It’s why faith is an essential ingredient in pleasing Him. (Hebrews 6:4)

An unmarried teenage girl giving birth to her firstborn son, and only having a manger for His bassinet…doesn’t seem good or ideal. Her visitors are shepherds…strangers with an amazing story…But Mary’s response teaches us a lot about faith…even when the circumstances aren’t good…God is.

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…She named him Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.” (Luke 2:19, 21)

Mary was the only one at Jesus’ birth and His death…She laid Him in that feeding trough and she was there when He died…helping tend to his shredded body for burial.

“A baby born in Bethlehem
His hands, soft and gently curled
But held within their dimpled grasp
The hope of the entire world.”

Can you imagine being a 16 year old pregnant Jewish unmarried girl, engaged, betrothal to a carpenter…who has been informed by angelic messenger. “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you…don’t be afraid, you’re going to have a child, a little boy…He will be called the Son of the most high. God will give him the throne of David…He’ll reign over the house of Jacob forever. His Kingdom will never end.

How’s this going to happen? I’m a virgin? (Mary) the angel answers “The Holy spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will over shadow you…so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Mary’s response it’s even more remarkable “I’m the Lord’s servant…may it be to me the Lord has said”
“Mary was nearly divorced, forced to become an immigrant in her teens, one day she would witness her firstborn’s gruesome execution.
Have you ever realized that Mary was only in her mid-forties when she stood at the foot of the cross? She watches her beloved oldest child, arrested, beaten, tortured and displayed out for the world to see…nailed to a cross.

Terry Ocasey writes “From upon the cross, her Jesus deserted by his brothers, who mocked his messianic pretensions (John 7:5) speaks to his Mom and his best friend’s “Mom, John will take care of you. John care for Mom” (John 19: 26, 27)

If you ever wonder if God can bring good out of bad…think of Mary…from the manager to the cross she knew Jesus was the savior of the world…the glue that holds all creation together.

“For God was please to have all his fullness dwell through Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things…How? By making peace through His blood shed on the cross…once we were alienated from God…His evenness because of the way we think and act…but now we have been reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death.

It’s God’s plan…even Jesus’ name, given before He was conceived reveals it…“Savior.”

Christmas is about God coming to be one of us…to reconcile us…to redeem us…to unite us with Him and with each other.

I can’t end today just looking at the manger and the cross…we must go beyond. It’s the great joy part of this good news plan

III. WHEN ALL THE FAMILY CELEBRATES TOGETHER

The last mention of Mary, Jesus’ mother is after His resurrection. She is present with all the disciples…but listen:

ACTS 1:13-14 (p. 758)

Everyone is praying together, including Mary. Not just with the disciples but with her other sons…Jesus’ brothers who have come to believe.

Christmases are very different for me now that I’m older, people are absent…chairs are empty…I have great joy, especially with my grandchildren but the toys that used to excite me don’t really matter as much (although I’ve never gotten a new truck in a gigantic stocking under a gigantic tree.)

But being with those I love gives me the greatest joy…Being with my family is a big deal.

I can’t imagine the faith that takes you from trusting God as a virgin to lay your son in a manger…see Him grow in wisdom, stature and truth only to be nailed to a cross…And even have your other children mock Him…And then everything changes…His resurrection…those other brothers becoming believers…standing together in worship…knowing it all now makes sense.

I believe Heaven will be like that…and sooooo much more…THEN.

Let’s pray.

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