I was asked once to speak at the women's Advent Morning Out event. The theme for the morning was A Box of Christmas. It got me to thinking a lot about boxes. Regardless of colour, size, or shape, boxes do have a tendency to tell us something about the cargo they contain.
Perhaps when it comes to Christmas the boxes we most closely associate to the celebrations are gift boxes under a tree. However, at the very center of the Christmas narrative there is a much more significant box. The manger box. The feed box that was found in the stable that blessed night. The simple, unadorned, common box is where the Lord chose to lay His head. I wonder why?
I have to believe that if God really is God (which I do believe), then God surely has chosen this entrance into our world by choice rather than by chance. So what kind of God arrives in a manger box?
A few thoughts spring to mind.
The God who arrives in a manger box is a God who desires to be known.
Unlike the royalty of this earth, that we have come to understand as unapproachable, untouchable, set apart, inaccessible – the Kingdom that Jesus has come to establish will have a different kind of nobility. Jesus' reign begins in such a humble stable in part to signal to all that this King of all kings is desirous of our approach. He longs to be accesible to all, fully known, the incarnation among us. This is a God who is where all people, regardless of social status, holiness, status or stigma – all may approach a stable. This is where cows feed. Surely you are welcome too.
The God who arrives in a manger box longs to be embraced.
Again, if God is God then surely He could arrive anyway He wanted. He could just magically appear one day in the middle of a large crowd. Or He could descend on clouds of glory. Or enter gates on a Kingly horse with armies of angels behind and before Him. Yet, He doesn't choose any of those prestigious entries. Jesus came as a baby. Vulnerable. Small. Dependant. Jesus came as an infant who would need to be held gently, calmly, and lovingly in His mother's arms. This God, who surely embraces us as we cry out to Him, came also to be embraced by us. Intimacy is central to His earthly agenda.
The God who arrives in a manger box has come to recalibrate our hearts.
A King born in a stable? A God who squeezes divinity into human flesh? The Christ-child, laid in a manger? How are we to make sense of these images? I wonder if it could be that this kind of arrival indicates that our world needs some recalibration. In the face of this God, our old notions of what is rich and what is poor make little sense. Our determinations of who is holy and who is untouchable are blury. Our confidence in what makes us worthy or what leaves us stained is shattered. This King found in a manger is clearly establishing a new Kingdom, and we will need to have our hearts trued to His law and love. The One who is called Emmanuel is indicating to us all that the new measure is not of our worth but of our with-ness. This is true - God is with us.
The God who arrives in a manger box is going to break out.
We all do it from time to time. We try to manage God. We keep Him in a box of sorts. Perhaps a Sunday morning box. Maybe a religious holiday box. Some even have God in a tradition box. For others God is kept in a magic box. The baby found in the manger is going to grow. This is a truth we all can agree upon. And as the baby grows, you can be sure He will quickly outgrow the manger box. There is no box that will contain the God of the universe. The Christ-child has put the world on notice – boxes are going to be broken.
The God who arrives in a manger box is one you need to receive.
What is the difference between getting a gift and receiving a gift? When you get a gift you simply have it at your disposal. When you receive a gift, you welcome it into your home and adopt it into your living. Just as surely as Jesus was embraced by His mother Mary, the scriptures tell us that she wrapped Him in clothes and laid Him in a manger. This Christmas season as you see images of this holy child, consider that maybe He was laid down so that you could pick Him up and receive Him into the very center of your life. The God who arrived in the manger box came to make Himself known, to be intimately connected, present with you, freed from the box you have kept Him in, and received into your heart.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - John 1:12 (NIV).