Luke 2:6,7 – While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (NIV)
How many pulpits and communion tables have been set aside on Christmas Eve to make room for the manger to stand front and centre? Some mangers I have seen were made of rough logs tied together; others even had a wooden canopy and real animals with diapers! All those mangers, though, had one qualifying statistic: they were filled with hay, and somehow that hay found its way all over the carpet. Yes, the manger is front and centre at Christmas, but there is danger here! Our culture has sentimentalised it all and the hay fills our homes with wishful dreaming of Christmas long gone.
As our culture permeates our holy moments it decentralizes Christ and replaces Him with a cute manger. The next step is to substitute the manger with Santa's sleigh, which is what is happening now. The Bethlehem manger is not filled with just senseless hay that can be replaced with a laden sleigh. It holds God's profound mystery of life and death.
When we set aside the proclamation of the Good News and replace it with sentiment, the meaning of this holy mystery escapes our children. We need to gather around all three at Christmas: the Manger, the Pulpit and the Sacrament of Christ's presence with us. At Christmas we need to put the focus on the life and teaching, the cross and sacrifice of Jesus as the Christ, to understand the mystery of why Jesus came in the first place.
That precious manger held the Lord of all, and Christmas is His birthday. The Good News to be proclaimed is: Christ Jesus, our Saviour is born! And the altar or Communion Table holds the mystery in it all, that this baby came to die! No one likes to think of that, but Jesus died for us all. What a wonderful baby, what a wonderful Saviour! He is front and centre as we fall on our knees and worship Him.
Prayer: Jesus, we worship and adore you and kneel in awe at what you have accomplished in this world, starting with the shepherds, and reaching through the centuries to us. Today, O God, help us make this vow: "Lord, we put you front and centre in our lives and worship you with joy and gladness, glorifying and praising God." Forgive us for letting our culture replace you with hay. Starting with us today, Lord, help us proclaim in our town and city, our farm and home, as did the shepherds, all the things we have seen by faith and heard through your Spirit as we arrive home from worshipping Jesus, our Lord, at his manger. Amen.