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Friday, December 23, 2022
"See Him In A Manger Laid"
Weather note: Today we are getting our first seasonal spate of really cold winter weather with strong winds and dropping temps. Perhaps even some snow! Thankfully we are not out again till tomorrow but then it gets down to the low teens. The kind of weather that helps you understand why many elderly go to Florida in the winter!
Message summary: Today let us lift Him up, the One whom Mary laid in the manger!
Listen to our message on your audio player.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7).
See Him in a manger laid, Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth!
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, with us sing our Savior’s birth.
Glo-ori-a in excelsis de-o
Glo-ori-a in excelsis de-o
Yesterday's message, "The Offense Of The Manger", was about the offense that some take at the sight of the manger or other Christmas symbols during this holy season. We still have a manger scene in our Mount Joy park and a reader from Ohio wrote this morning to tell us of one in Lima Ohio's downtown.
Today, rather than the shame, scorn and offense which is how so many react to the manger setting, let us consider the esteem the true Christian has for what it represents. The manger is a very familiar symbol of Christmas with Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds and usually it includes the wise men bearing gifts (although a careful reading of Scripture reveals they came to visit the child Jesus later).
When we lived in New England we recall a Christmas party with other ministers where we each shared a Christmas memory. These kinds of gatherings can be very touching, memorable and sometimes very funny (see below in footnote).
Rich Weitzel is a pastor friend of ours who now lives in Lebanon County but at that time pastored a church out on Cape Cod in Wellfleet. He shared this family memory:
"Our son was very young and quite fascinated by the manger scene. He carefully studied the wise men, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and then would frequently rearrange them. He kept moving the baby Jesus to the very front rather than in the center as is the custom in most manger scenes. I was a bit flustered at having to constantly put the characters back in their proper place. I asked my son, ‘Why do you keep moving baby Jesus to the front?’ He told me, ‘Daddy, I want everybody to see Jesus.’”
The very first place the infant Jesus was physically placed, following His birth, was in a manger. The manger was a feeding trough for animals. The specific composition of the manger is not specified in Scripture, but it was likely made from wood or perhaps from a hollowed out log.
One can see Mary wrapping her newborn baby in cloths and placing Him gently in the manger. This is the first instance we hear of a wrapped Christmas present, "and she wrapped Him in cloths". What an interesting detail and sign of the humble start on earth for the incarnate, eternal Son of God. He was surely lovingly, gently and purposefully laid in the manger. The first physical place the eternal Son of God appeared, by whose command the world was formed, was in an animal-feeding trough.
The final physical place where Jesus (in His pre-resurrected body) appeared was a cross. As a symbol we now see crosses made of stone, metal, jewels, and other materials (even plastic!), but the old rugged cross upon which the dear Son of God died was most certainly made of wood. In fact Peter writes, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree".
In contrast to Jesus' birth when He was tenderly held by loving hands, Jesus was angrily raised on the cross by the riotous hands of soldiers. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter cried out to the crowd, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).
This Christmas season let us keep a sense of awe when we view the manger scene. My friend’s young son wanted everyone to see Jesus and that should be the goal of every earnest believer. Jesus Himself stated, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
Today let us lift Him up, the One Mary whom laid in the manger!
Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Jesus, we know that You no longer physically occupy a place where we can see, touch, or talk with You face to face, but You reside within the hearts of those who make room for You. We place You on the throne of our hearts where Your love captivates us, where Your principles and divine guidance are the authority and rule for our lives. Though the world may cast You aside we place You front and center of all that we do so that all who see us will also see You. May the love You shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit also be spread to those whom we have opportunity to influence, through Christ our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"From the Manger to the Cross" Video The Stanley Brothers
"Away In a Manger" Video Gaither Vocal Band
"Mary Had a Little Lamb" Video I (Brooksyne) heard this song for the first time this morning written and sung by a married couple, Rod+Rose Atkins. I like the lyrics and tune and believe it will bless you as you listen. The title could mislead you, but it's not the nursery rhyme we grew up with!
"The True Meaning of Christmas" by Voddie Baucham. The message the world needs to hear delivered in a straightforward & powerful way. Video (2 minutes).
We met Voddie years ago at a conference here in Lancaster County.
Today’s story reminded me of another more humorous story that was shared at the same minister’s Christmas party. True story!
A fellow pastor shared that one year he was leading a Christmas Eve Service. It was a solemn part of the service and he was singing, “Do you see what I see?” in his powerful and very earnest baritone voice. As he was singing he tried to make eye contact with the people but noticed many of them with their heads down and others were trying to cover their uncontrollable smiles. Some were actually laughing out loud in a quiet sort of way. What could possibly be so funny about this serious song during a time of worship? Inside his heart he was a bit miffed by their disrespect.
After he took his seat in the pew he quickly realized that he had failed to properly close (zip up) a particular item on his trousers. The question he repeated often throughout the song “Do you see what I see?” seemed to bring recurring attention to the all too visible problem!
One more funny story we recall from the past right after we moved to MA in 1993:
Nearly thirty years ago we served a church in New England and Brooksyne directed a children's musical drama called “Little Christmas Lamb”. It featured a poor orphan girl with ragged attire and worn-out shoes played by Cleusa Alfama, a ten year old Portuguese girl who attended our church. (I just saw a photo of her on Facebook posted for her 40th birthday.)
Brooksyne found some worn-out shoes for Cleusa to wear. Little did she know that the shoes were so worn out that, during the play, the soles loosened from the shoes and began to flop up and down each step Cleusa took as she walked on the stage. This caused the congregation to laugh repeatedly every time Cleusa walked. Ester was only 4 years old at the time and didn’t understand drama vs. reality. She was terribly upset at what she perceived to be people making fun of Cleusa with her clippety clop shoes.
About 2/3 through the play Ester spontaneously ran up to the front of the church, turned around to the congregation, and gave them all a scolding look as she shook her finger at them. It looked like a miniature mama shaming her badly behaved children who were being scolded for poking fun at this poor girl. Brooksyne was directing the play and was unable to get to Ester, but Gesenia, a kind woman in the congregation came forward to get Ester and settle her down.
Seeing how shaken Ester was by the poverty stricken orphan Brooksyne took her to the shoe store the next day and together they bought Cleusa a new pair of shoes. Ester wrapped them and gave them to her for Christmas. It served as a wonderful lesson for her to respond to a person in need (even though it was a bit “staged”). We found the following photo in our pre-digital collection of Cleusa with her new shoes, along with Ester.
Cleusa receiving her new pair of shoes from Ester who at that time was wild about 101 Dalmatians. We're not at that number yet, but four dogs is plenty for our family of three!
We love it when this restored red Ford appears each year right in downtown Mount Joy with its large, bow and berry-clad Christmas wreath.
Here's the side view as the Ford pickup is loaded down with the traditional evergreen Christmas tree.
Our 2022 family Christmas photo
(taken by Jim, a friend from our ABF)
Click to enlarge
We also shared this photo on Monday but do so again today to express to each reader this last message before Christmas Day: Have a blessed Christmas!
Here's a Christmas test I prepared many years ago for those who may be interested
How Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem: _______________
Who first said it, "Nothing is impossible with God"? _______________
The names of the wise men were: ________________________________
According to the Gospel of Luke, two older people present at the dedication of Jesus were: (proper names) __________________________
After Christ’s birth Mary and Joseph took Him to: _______________
The wise men found Jesus in a: _______________
Leading the way to Bethlehem for the wise men was: _______________
Directing the shepherds to Jesus was: _______________
When the shepherds saw Jesus He was dressed: _______________
At the birth of Jesus the angels sang: _______________
The Roman leader in Palestine at the time of Christ’s birth was: _______________
Jesus Christ was born in: _______________
The three gifts brought to Jesus were: ________________________________
Several times Joseph received direction from: _______________
What did the shepherds do when they saw Jesus? _______________
What did the shepherds do after seeing Jesus? _______________
The providential event that led Joseph back to his ancestral home was: _______________
Who was the governor of Syria at the time of Christ’s birth? _______________
Joseph had been living in: _______________
What were the shepherds doing in the fields at night? _______________
What was the shepherd’s reaction to the appearance of the angel: _______________
Where in the Bible is this phrase found "In the fullness of time"? _______________
What was the name of the angel that spoke to Mary prior to Christ’s conception? _______________
Associate the familiar carol with:
A broken organ _______________
Traditionally assumed to have written "Away in a manger"? _______________
Isaac Watts _______________
The writer of this familiar Christmas hymn ministered in Boston _______________
Name the hymn the phrase is from:
"Truly He taught us to love one another" _______________
"Born to give them second birth" _______________
"There is room in my heart for Thee" _______________
"Fill all the world with heaven’s peace" _______________
Who were John the Baptist’s mom and dad? _____________________________
What does Immanuel mean? _______________
What does Jesus mean? _______________
What does Christ mean? _______________
Which two Gospels record the human account of the birth of Christ? _____________________
Approximately how many years ago was Jesus born? _______________
Approximately how many years was Jesus born after God made the promise to Abraham? _______________
What is the essence of the message the shepherds received from the angel?
(Verbatim quote great) _______________________________________________________________
What is the best memory you have of Christmas?
Have you received Christ as your Savior? _________________________
See here for test key
Special Year-end Financial Appeal
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Stephen & Brooksyne
Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)
Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to you, your family or church during this Christmas season.
"In Remembrance of Me" pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling. Here's a great Communion Hymn for Christmas (Video)
"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
Christmas Knowledge Test
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).
During a sermon in 1926, Reverend James Allan Francis summarized the profound impact of the life of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you will recognize his words:
"Here is a man who was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.
"He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
"He had no credentials but himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of his divine manhood. While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. Another betrayed him.
"He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon the cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying, and that was his coat. When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
“Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today he is the center of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.
"I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as powerfully as has this one solitary life."
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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