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A Manger Shadowed by a Tree

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving always ushers in the promise of Christmas. When I was growing up in Virginia, we knew that as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes could be washed and put away that the Christmas Tree would be cut down and all of the decorating would begin. There were Christmas Tree balls, lights, tinsel, and the smells of Cinnamon and Cocoa, as goodies cooked in the oven.

Those few weeks leading up to that “magical” day were filled with busy. We bustled from one house to another expecting laughter with cousins, kisses from aunts and uncles, and all the pure love we could get from our grandparents. Packages were left under their trees, as were left under ours when they visited. Everyday we visited our Christmas Tree to see what new packages had arrived and we would pick them up and shake them hoping to figure out what was inside.

The thrill of all that Christmas promised was more than my child-heart could contain and I always so looked forward to every minute of it. I enjoyed the decorations and presents, but that which my heart loved most was our family being together and laughing and enjoying how we were all connected sinew by sinew — strengthened, loved, and cared for because we belong to one another.

Family and friend relationships are so very important as we sojourn this harsh world. Our human experience of suffering and disconnect is restored by coming together during the holidays. We all long for those times, but we know, and especially in 2020, how fragile such is. The pandemic that has torn through our year…taken captives…left many lost and without family because of quarantines, and sadly death has left darkness in many lives.

However, if we reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas, it all becomes clearer and perhaps we can be comforted.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

Salvation had been born in a cave and laid in a feeding trough! The Messiah, promised to the Jews, did not come as the King or Ruler they were looking for, rather He came in helplessness and needed to be nurtured and loved and cared for so that He could then, as a man, be beaten, flogged, and nailed to a tree — a cruel Roman cross. God came to earth on what we call Christmas. He packaged Himself in the form of a Babe born to a virgin, Mary, and an earthly father, Joseph. These two did not erect a tree with lights and tinsel — no, they laid God — Immanuel — Jesus — in a feeding trough that was shadowed not by a Christmas Tree, but a cross. He was not wrapped in shiny paper with bows…He was wrapped instead in swaddling clothes and then death clothes.

Yet, what is the Hope?? He is our Hope! Before the foundation of the world God had a plan — His plan would redeem us to Himself.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25

As you gather for Christmas and gaze up on the lights and presents, do not forget He who came to give you the gift of everlasting life! There is no greater gift, hope, or joy!

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:9-14

Soli Deo Gloria

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