Away in a Manger

| December 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

A Real Manger

I sometimes think it’s a mistake to drill into children the Christmas story of Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem. In a way, we end up trivializing the story because it becomes so familiar by the time the child reaches critical thinking that the story loses all its powerful. You almost have to relearn the enormous implications of this story if you, in fact, believe it. What is says is that the creator of the unimaginably vast universe, of which the earth is but a less than insignificant speck, lowered him of herself to be born as a human on this speck and offered a promise of eternal, joyful life. Of course, the story gets even more improbable as it goes on to Jesus’s actual life.   But even the birth story is a bit hard to grasp when considered tabula rasa.

It might be better to work backwards.  Imagine there’s a God who cares about us.  Now, imagine that this God wants to communicate a certain message to us.  Finally, imagine that the message is one of humility and love for the least among us.  How would God communicate that message?

One way would be to come into our world in the most humble way imaginable, which is, of course, the nativity story.  Which brings me to the word of the day, “manger.”  Since I had the nativity story drilled into me and it was in that context that I first learned the word “manger,” I always thought that manger was a synonym for “crib,” albeit a rustic one. When I went to Google images to get a picture for this post, almost every image was a “Biblical” manager. Frankly, growing up,  all the nativity scenes I observed, the “manager” was a perfect fit for the baby Jesus, as though it was built for the purpose.  Joseph was a carpenter, wasn’t he?  Maybe he built the manger especially for Jesus.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Obviously, I missed that point of the story.  Here’s the dictionary definition of “manger,”:

a box or trough in a stable or barn from which horses or cattle eat.

Who knew?  Seems like the word “manger” has more in common with the word “mange” that with “crib.”  It does drive home the point that the God of the entire universe was debasing him or herself from the very moment of birth.

Yes, I know.  The stable, no room at the Inn, the homelessness, all delivered the same message.  Still, it was a bit of a revelation to me when I first learned the true meaning of manager.  It did add a bit to the true meaning of Christmas.

That’s my Christmas thought for the day.

Merry Christmas.

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Category: Religion

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