Friday, December 24, 2010

Look in the Manger

Look in the Manger

By Kevin Probst

Moses had a personal and beautiful relationship with God. Read about it in Exodus 33. Moses conversed with God and said, “If you are pleased with me and if I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways that I may know you better. Show me your glory.”

Moses didn’t realize the greatness or the danger of God’s glory. God agreed to his request. It is amazing to consider that the great, sovereign God of creation would be willing to show himself to someone as lowly as Moses. So, God hid Moses away in the cleft of a rock, covered him with his hand and swept by him. Moses saw the back of God and was overwhelmed by his beauty. Had he seen his face the glory of God would have destroyed him.

Isaiah had a similar experience with God revealed in Isaiah chapter 6. Isaiah saw God, high and exalted, sitting on his throne. Seraphs covered their faces with their wings to protect themselves from the brightness of his glory. They called to each other, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

After Isaiah had seen the King of Glory, he cried out in despair, “Woe to me. I am ruined. I am but a sinful man living among a sinful people and I have looked on the holiness of God.”

The glory of God that fazed Moses and Isaiah thousands of years ago has not diminished with the passing of time. God revealed himself to them because he wanted to. He has provided men with the means to know him personally. Through scripture and through his Spirit we may have a personal, intimate relationship with God. He wants us to know him because he loves us.

So, how might we see God without being struck down by his glory? Herein is the dilemma. God cannot lessen his glory so that we might look upon him. The great holy city of the future will “not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23) Unlike the suns and the stars of the universe, God’s light never diminishes, it never fades. It is from everlasting to everlasting.

How might we see the glory of God? We may safely look upon his glory by peering into the manger of Bethlehem. Two thousand years ago God came in the form of a human so that all of mankind might look upon the Son of God. The adult Jesus would declare that those who had seen him had also seen his Father. (John 14:7)

When we look down into the manger what are we seeing? Something to miraculous for words to describe. We are looking at God clothed in the humility of human flesh. He did not come as they expected, a king dressed in royal purple riding on a white stallion. No, he came in a very ordinary way, as a baby in a poor family, rejected and unwanted and unnoticed. Imagine the Son of God was born in Bethlehem that night and hardly anyone in the city seemed to notice.

There are many miraculous things to consider regarding the circumstances surrounding the events in Bethlehem that day. But the actual birth of Christ was very normal. The miracle was in the conception not the birth. He was born in the way all men are born.

Many today will miss the truth of his incarnation just as they did in Bethlehem years ago. Others perceive it but are indifferent. The God-child in the manger was the culmination of the wondrous plan by which God could provide salvation to mankind without compromising his justice. He had to sacrifice his Son. Justice is preserved and wondrous love is demonstrated.

Look into the manger and see not only humility but also helplessness. “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) Many babies in that era died before their first birthday. Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth to protect him. They wrapped the arms and legs separately and then wrapped the torso, much like a mummy. The helplessness of the babe in a manger foreshadowed the helplessness of the Savior at the cross. As he stood before his accusers he could have called ten thousand angels but instead he suffered injustice quietly, bound and helpless and at the mercy of the Roman soldiers and Roman officials.

The manger scenes we see set up around our neighborhoods during the Christmas season are so lovely and pristine. Joseph took Mary to a stable. Imagine the disappointment Mary must have felt. It was drafty. There was no opportunity for privacy. The floor was made of dirt. Flea infested sheep, goats and cows lumbered about. The strong odor of manure wafted through the air. This is where God chose to reveal himself to mankind through his Son, Jesus Christ.

The humility and the helplessness of Christ failed to stir much interest in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. The indifference and the hostility toward the Christ-child doesn’t change the fact that “…in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

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