Preparation: I made a simple trough-like manger. The ends are from two pieces
of 1" x 1" x 12". I made a lap joint for each so
the pieces interlock to form an "X" 90 degrees to each
other. Four slats join the two end pieces. I chose to
use mortise and tenon joints so one sees a clean "X"
when viewing from the ends.
Show the kids and the congregation the manger. Explain that the
manger into which Jesus was laid was probably not like this, but was a
hewn block of stone or slabs of stone next to the wall to make a
trough. But, what I have here is what we often picture, so we
will work with it for today.
Jesus was placed into a trough to remind us that God became a
human. John says, "The Word (Jesus) became flesh."
The fancy word for that is "incarnation." If you eat
chili con carne it means you have chili with meat in it, not just
beans and sauce. A carnivore eats meat.
"Incarnation" means to take on flesh. Jesus did
not give us a set of instructions on how to become like Him, but
He became like us. He lived in the midst of the mess caused by
our sins. He lived a perfect life so God could see us as perfect
because of Him.
Something happens if we look again at this little manger.
(Hold it so everyone can see the end directly. Turn the end so
it appears as a cross.) Tell them Jesus came to die on the cross for
our sins. The manger at Christmas reminds us this is not just a
sweet story about a new baby, but it reminds us Jesus came to carry
our sins on the cross. The manger helps us to see Good Friday in
But, there is more. (Turn it so the end appears as an
"X".) What does this look like? What letter of the alphabet?
(Someone will likely say an "X".) Tell the kids and congregation it looks like an "X" to us,
but in Greek it is a letter known as "chi." Tell them
it has a "ch" sound and it is the first letter in the word
"Christ." Some people do not like it if you write "Christmas"
as "X-mas". They sometimes think you are trying
to take Christ out of Christmas. What they do not realize is
that the "X" is a very old abbreviation for Christ that
appears in some very early copies of the New Testament.
"Christ" is not really Jesus' name, but His title. It
means "The Anointed One." That normally means
pouring oil over someone, often to make them a king. Jesus was
anointed with the Holy Spirit. He is also the One who comes
to rule for God. He came announcing the Kingdom of God was very
near. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
When we believe His promises our sins are forgiven and He comes to
live in our hearts by His Holy Spirit. He rules in our hearts
and changes our lives. Now we live in the midst of a world that
wants nothing to do with Jesus, and does not want Him as its
king. But, He will come again one day and will show
everyone that He really is the king over all.
When you look at the manger, see in it a reminder that Jesus took on
our flesh and died on the cross to redeem us. Also see in
it that He is our king Who rules over us and will one day take us to be
with Him forever in that kingdom.
Copyright 1970-2005 P. Bohlken
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