Glory in the Manger
Like anything that involves a baby, the focus here isn’t the angels, the shepherds, even Mary and Joseph; all our attention should be on this baby.
“And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:16–17)
We are told surprisingly little. No height or weight given. No color of eyes or hair. We know Mary and Joseph are there. That’s to be expected. Parents of newborns, especially firstborns, are very attentive to the child. Other than that, all we have is his crib; a manger. As you may know, this was a feeding trough for animals. It was not exactly the most hygienically clean spot for a baby. For how many years had this feeding trough had the rather gross experience of feeding animals?
When we go to the orchard or petting zoo, my girls want to feed the goats or whatever. One second after they’re done, we are slathering on the anti-bacterial soap. We use words like “icky” to describe the licking tongues of goats and cows. There, in that icky place, lay the Creator of the universe. The Lord of glory. In that icky place,
- “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3)
- “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15–17)
Did the shepherds adequately realize who he was? They couldn’t, and he is far greater than we begin to realize too. But the little they did understand produced praise and glory to God that made its way into Scripture and has been talked about now for 2,000 years.
Isn’t this the marvel of Christmas? That one so glorious, powerful—the infinite God—is now in creation, in human flesh, and of all places on earth, in a goat-feeding manger? We humans can’t grasp such glory in a normal looking baby. Before Jesus, artists’ rendering of Roman or Greek gods would include a halo over their head. This signified glory or deity. Wrongly of course, but artists and painters for centuries used that same technique over the head of Jesus even as a baby. At his birth, the only glory light was out in the fields when the angels appeared. Do you know what Jesus looked like in that manger? He looked like a normal baby. There was no glory light filling the stable. There was no halo over his head. And yes, despite what the song says, he cried. He needed a diaper. He was as normal as normal could be.
AND he was simultaneously upholding the galaxies by his power and might.
We are more comfortable with that in the adult Jesus because we see him silencing the storm and raising the dead. But the baby Jesus was every bit as much omnipotent God as the Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb.
Here is the true glory in the manger. Not a light show. Not a song. Not angels. Not shepherds. The glory in the manger was WHO he is.
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/ Hail the incarnate deity.”
The One who deserved glory in the highest had taken the position of the lowest. The angels say, Glory to God in the highest. When we understand Christmas we sing, Glory to God in the lowest. And down in that place of humility Jesus brings hope to humanity. Who is lower and weaker than a baby in a feeding trough?
Where are you? What’s your place? What’s your social standing? We have people across the spectrum, the rich and poor, the influential and the not, the high and mighty and the low and not so mighty. Why did Jesus start in the lowest place? Invite the shepherds? Cry his first cry in such a humble and forgettable place? Place his precious head on the hay of horses? So that none of us need question if Jesus came for me.
There’s no light. No angels. No song. No trumpets. No throne. No sea of glass. No seraphim chanting Holy, Holy, Holy. None of the accoutrements to Jesus’ true identity.
But there was divine glory in that manger. Cloaked in a baby. Hidden from human eyes. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Friend, today, do you see his glory? Can you believe in his mission? Can you trust in his eventual death on the cross for our sins? Is he your Savior?
Last Sunday I met a man whose wife had prayed for him for many, many years. God had touched his heart and he came and shared with me that now he is a Christian. I smiled and said, “your first Christmas as a Christian.” What a joy. The first Christmas seeing glory in the manger.
For many of us, it’s not our first Christmas. What should we do? Take our cues from the first Christmas. The angels? Adoration. The Shepherds? Amazement. Mary? Treasured these things. Adoration. Amazement. And a sense of wonder and glory that treasures Jesus’ birth as true glory in the manger.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Charles Wesley, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” 1739.
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