By Stuart Powell
Note: Use this meditation as part of a Christmas Nativity scene. Before the meditation, hide in the manger a large piece of bread (pita bread works well) and a sealed glass container half filled with grape juice or purple water. (Make sure neither item is visible to the audience.)
Most Christians are familiar with the traditional scene of the first Christmas: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, and all sorts of animals. The centerpiece of the scene, surrounded by all the popular characters, is a feeding trough holding God’s bundle of joy, baby Jesus. As we take in the scene, we hear the angels’ praises . . . the “good news of great joy.”
A swaddled newborn rests in the straw. Our eyes long to meet his. We wait for his toothless yawn; we see him stretch his tiny legs. This baby infatuates us more than most. We want to keep him here, safely in the manager. But we know he grows up and endures troubles common to all people . . . and some not-so-common problems. He studies the Law and the Prophets. He grows into a man who builds things, just like his earthly father. Then, after three years of ministry, he surrenders his life on a Roman cross to wash clean the sins of the world.
As we look at this scene, we recall that the same mouth that cries from the manger clearly speaks these words years later:
[Reach into the manger and pull out the bread.]
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, English Standard Version).
[Return the bread to the manger and pull out the glass.]
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20, ESV).
[Return the glass to the manger.]
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth this year, let’s remember the liberty we have because of Jesus’ work on the cross and his promise to come again for his church.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.