Manger scenes are popular at Christmas time. They are made of all kinds of materials. We have one made of bark. There are blow up mangers in people’s yards. There are living manger scenes. I have seen many kinds and had many reactions to them. Some I thought, why did they do that? Others, I thought, that is cute. For some, I thought, that is just weird.
Then one day, looking at the baby in the manger, I thought: it is none of these; it is astounding (causing a feeling of great surprise or wonder). It represents an astounding event: God became man.
Why is it astounding? I can think of 3 reasons.
First, it is astounding because of who God is. God is the creator of all things. The Bible starts with that very thought: in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He is not part of this creation, this world we know. He is outside of it because he created it. He is holy, majestic and powerful. Yet, he entered this creation as Jesus, the only begotten Son. God became man.
Second, it is astounding because of how he did it. He caused Jesus to be born of a virgin. It was impossible by human standards. It is a little theme that runs through this passage. That is why Mary asked the question “how can this be?”. Gabriel told her nothing was impossible with God and he offered evidence to prove it: Elizabeth, who was barren and past child bearing age, was pregnant.
The whole Trinity was involved in this birth. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, the Father (Most High) overshadowed her, and the Son was born. His divine conception meant that, not only was he man, he was God, the holy Son of God. (35) He was fully man and fully God.
Third, it is astounding because of who he came to. He came to a world in rebellion against him. The very first man rebelled against God, believing Satan’s lies and attempting to elevate himself to the status of God. Every man and woman since that time rebelled against God. It was so bad that, at one point, God destroyed every living thing by water, preserving only a remnant with which to start over.
Isaiah said “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way…” (Is. 53:6) Paul wrote “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Rom. 3:23) Mankind constantly rebelled against God’s authority and his law. We are a race of rebels.
Yet this holy God, in the form of Jesus, inserted himself into this rebellious humanity. He was born into a nation and race that, despite receiving the special blessing of God, perverted his law and rebelled against him repeatedly. But, God came anyway. It is astounding.
Fourth, it is astounding because of why he came. He came to save those very rebels. Gabriel said “you shall call his name Jesus”. It means “savior”. Matthew 1:21 adds, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 1 Timothy 1:25 says “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” The Holy God inserted himself into sinful humanity to save sinners. He saved us from the wrath of God, the ultimate consequence of sin.
There are many things to enjoy at this time of year. There is way too much food, fellowship, decorations and entertainment. It is okay to enjoy that. But, why limit yourself to enjoyment? Be astounded! And let that lead to worship.