The Message of the Manger

We received a pastry gift and a lovely brochure from Marriott Hotel given by a neighbor who works there as a chef. The brochure, both the paper and photos, speaks of classy elegance and opulence. It offers different packages for a stress-free as well as sumptuous Christmas Eve spread (noche buena). One package includes a 3-kg roast US prime beef and a selection of sides that makes my mouth water as I write about it. (By the way, the package I mentioned costs P10,000 ~ roughly $200+). The brochure also offers special accommodations for families during the holidays, especially on New Year’s Eve. They have prepared a place where guests join in the countdown for the coming year. It is an invitation to those who love the posh life.

manger

The posh life. Is it for those who love and follow Christ?

I know that if I were physically able to travel this Christmas season, I wouldn’t choose to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Marriott Hotel. It’s not that I don’t like plush hotels. (If our family were given a gift certificate to stay a night in one for free, we would receive it with gratitude and would probably avail of it). But it’s that, it’s not a priority and my eyes are on my humble Savior who chose to be born in a stable. There was no room for them at the inn, remember? Or at Marriott Hotel for that matter. Or Solaire. Or Shangri-la.

Why would Jesus’ birth story include the turning away of Joseph and the very pregnant Mary by the inn? Why was it so important to mention it? The story must be that the main characters would end up in the lowliest accommodation available. And that is where the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God-Incarnate, would be born. Was it another illustration of John 1: 10-11?

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Does this turning Him away still play on the stage of our lives Christmas after Christmas? Do we still fail to know Him and receive Him as other things occupy our hearts and minds?

The angel who came down from heaven to announce the Savior’s birth appeared not before the highest authorities (VIPs) in the land, but to unknown shepherds doing the night shift.

Is this the message of the manger: that God is not inviting us to a worldly-wealthy life but to kingdom life where His righteousness reigns? That He wants to divert our focus from the world, where materialism and covetousness are gods, to Him – His life, His ways, and His promise of a kingdom that never ends?

We read in 2 Cor. 8:9:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Did He become poor in order to lavish us worldly wealth so that we would live in luxury, superfluity, and vanity? He Himself said:

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)

In The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12: 13-21), the Lord tells the fate of a rich man “who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” He warns us: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

For God, material and financial wealth alone are not the true riches.

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:17-18)

He calls the worldly rich wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

So, why did He choose to become poor so that through His poverty, we might become rich? What kind of rich?

He said in John 10:10:

… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Life and life abundantly. Abundant in righteousness, love, joy, peace, faith, hope, and all other enduring riches that flow from His everlasting kingdom. It’s the tri-fold blessing mentioned in 3 John 1:2:

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Material, physical, and spiritual prosperity. But material prosperity and the great desire for it (it then becomes covetousness) should not consume us. It should not reign supreme in our lives. It should not serve as a stumbling block on our path as we walk towards God’s kingdom. Apostle Paul commands the rich not to trust in their wealth but in the living God (1 Tim. 6:17). And the Lord reminds us to not let “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, [so that] it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19).

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may His powerful love draw us nearer to Him, gathering us as His cherished children around the Christmas table with songs of praise and thanksgiving, of joy and peace, and of awe and adoration to Him. May we talk about His wonders, goodness, and faithfulness and all the other things we anticipate He will still do in our lives.

May He bring home the prodigals, humbly bending their knees before Him. May He cover those who are homeless, those who wander in the streets and parks and beneath bridges, with His love and protection and bring them comfort, deliverance, and salvation.

May He heal all that are sick and raise them up from their sick beds and that they will come to know Him and His salvation and live life abundantly.

May He fill our hearts and homes with His light and peace and joy and love overflowing this Christmas and beyond! May He answer all our fervent prayers and make our future so bright!

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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