The Manger

Before you read this, read the blog immediately below this one. I wrote it a few days ago, before I knew anything that happened (in what I’m about to tell you) happened.

You back? Good. Keep reading.

Friday afternoon, I’m sitting at my desk at work when I get an email from my wife. She learned about an event happening at a local church called a “Manger Build”. And just as the name implies, it is an event designed for Dads to bring their kids and together build a manger.

I was immediately excited about the idea and almost as fast resolved in my mind that this manger build is what my Saturday morning (the very next day) would hold.

I came home and excitedly told my 3 oldest kids about it–Madison, Macy and Crews. Crews was almost immediately uninterested. But the girls were all about it. So, Saturday morning we headed out to Southside Baptist Church, found the room where the hammering was happening, and got started.

Let me say right here that another thing I learned Saturday is that my girls were born to swing a hammer! Neither of them had ever driven a nail before, I was totally expecting to have to teach them the finer points of grip and balance and all that stuff. They took to it like a fish to water! It did my heart good!

But more than that, I was deeply reminded that it’s the manger, not the tree that ought to be serve as the centerpiece to Christmas.

And as we built that manger together, took it home, and placed it next to our Christmas tree I was quickly reminded and thrust in my imagination to THE manger. The one that held the Messiah. I was reminded so strongly that God came into this rough cradle, this feed trough, for nothing more than love–love that would drive him to the cross–for the sole purpose of forgiving me.

And in perfect innocence, and a love for Jesus, as soon as we got home my girls wrapped up one of their dolls, “Sarah” who for now will be our Jesus.

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Forgive me.

Forgive me for not writing more. I know there are at least 2 people on the entire internet who have read this blog of mine.

Forgiveness, it seems to me is the most potent of all mental, emotional, social, and spiritual transactions that can take place. Nothing else has the power to do what true forgiveness can do. Forgiveness is something we are all in need of. No one who might ever read this (inluding the 2) can ever live very long at all without needing forgiveness for something.

It’s been said that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, only to realize that the prisoner was you.

Forgiveness was/is the chief purpose of the earthly life of Christ. And with Christmas a mere 5 days away, it seems fitting to sit a moment and soak in the reality of that fact. With all the attention on the manger, we ought to think about why the manger, why the advent, why the human birth of the Son of God, wherever it happened, was necessary? We give lots of attention to stars, and shepherds, and a virgin, and an inn, and angels, and wisemen, and gifts. But why would God stoop so low? Ironically enough, it’s quite easy for me (especially at this time) to focus so much on the birth of Christ that I literally miss the reason for the birth of Christ. And the reason was and is for the act of forgiveness. Nothing more, nothing less.

We’re told clearly in the Bible that Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” But that “lostness” is due to our need for forgiveness. It is we who are the offenders. It is humans who are the selfish ones. It is God who is selfless enough to give up His Son for the likes of me.

I’ve had recent situations in my life where forgiveness was necessary in both directions; both giving and receiving. And how anyone can withhold something given by God so freely is beyond my current ability to understand. When I grasp my need to be forgiven by God and find that He is more than willing time and time again to pour out that forgiveness, then I find that giving that forgiveness to those who need it from me is more than a pleasure; it is the very reflection of God.

This Christmas season, my prayer for myself and my family is that we will look beyond the manger to the reason that a child was placed in it at all.