What is sweeter than a child singing Away In a Manger? Not much.
Away in a manger. Away in the feeding trough for animals; that doesn’t have the same ring, does it? We get so used to seeing the baby Jesus with His little smile and His arms thrown open in that little ceramic manger between the figurines of Mary and Joseph it’s easy to forget Mary laid Him in a feed trough. It was the place where livestock slobbered as they licked up hay with their tongues. It’s the place where the animals congregate to feed. A feed trough: it’s an odd, confusing place to find a baby, let alone a King.
Nothing in the Bible is recorded by accident. What is the point? Perhaps it was a distinctive way to point out Jesus. The angels told the shepherds they would find the baby lying in a manger. They could have just as easily told them what Mary was wearing or which barn was Jesus’ birthplace.
Maybe the manger is important because it’s where the hungry come to be fed. Jesus could have been placed in any crib or any typical place, but instead He was wrapped in cloth and laid in the place where the hungry come to feed.
A few years after the manger Jesus will explain to a crowd of people who are confused about what He’s really doing here and what they need to do. After Jesus feeds the 5,000 with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, He tries to explain the point of that miracle. The people were excited and followed Jesus until finally, after asking to be shown how to do the miracle; Jesus had to blurt out the point in John 6:29-35:
“The only work God wants from you is to believe in the one He has sent.”
Those following Jesus wanted a sign. They wanted power. They wanted more miracles. They knew they needed something, they just didn’t know what. Jesus was interested helping them understand the one thing; their actual need: they needed the Bread from Heaven. They needed to believe in Christ. Their need was simple.
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. No wonder He was placed in a feed trough on His birthday.
He’s not like the bread you have to keep eating. Once you come to Him you will never be hungry again. The miracle was exciting. The food Jesus provided did fill the stomachs of those that day but believing in Christ as the one sent from God; that fills the emptiness of the human soul, completely. So completely you will never hunger again. It’s the food of eternal life.
If you’re hungry this Christmas season, come to the manger, find the Bread of Life, and help yourself!
Father, thank you for sending Jesus so simply into this world. Thank you for providing that missing piece, the piece that makes us full and whole, Jesus. Teach me to love Him more.