When I was a little boy my parents bought a Christmas manger set. On the box were these words: “The Christmas story in beautiful cutout scenes and lifelike figures . . . It tells the Christmas story . . . Fascinates young and old.” I remember how special it was to assemble the cardboard set on Christmas Eve. I would lie on the living room floor, face in hands, and gaze at those familiar figures for hours.
In the background was the little town of Bethlehem. To the left were the shepherds, with one little “adoring child” kneeling in reverence before the Christ child in the manger. To the right were the richly dressed and multicultural wise men, bearing their gifts. Behind Joseph and Mary stood a cow and a donkey, suspending their grazing in favor of gazing. Above the little wooden shelter was the star of Bethlehem. You could insert a Christmas tree bulb in the opening of the stable roof to add a lighting effect.
My favorite figures were not the camels, impressive though they were. Nor were they the gazing donkey and cow. There were also two grown sheep and one little lamb. And that lamb was my favorite of all. I loved that little lamb.
As I grew older I learned just how appropriate it was for that lamb to be included in the Christmas manger set. In Scripture, Jesus is described as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! In fact, the Bible declares Jesus is “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). God’s divine plan of salvation, from the very beginning of time, included our sins being covered by the blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
I never realized, as a little boy, how significant it was when I got to help assemble the Christmas manger set. The printed instructions on the flat portion of the landscape read, “Insert sheep and lamb here.” That is precisely what God did at Bethlehem when the little lamb, the Son of God, was born; and that is what God did at Calvary when the grown-up Lamb of God died on the cross for our sins.
I still have Christmas manger set (No. 743), box included, and I still set it up every Christmas. The cardboard little lamb, now more than 50 years old, is still my favorite—because of its messianic meaning.
As we partake of the broken bread and the crimson cup today, let us give thanks for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Victor Knowles is founder and president of Peace on Earth Ministries, Joplin, Missouri.