“And she brought forth her firstborn son… and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” ~ Luke 2:7
A manger is a feeding trough (a low open container) for animals. A good farmer would keep the manger filled with enough food to nourish the livestock. Likewise, Mary laying Jesus in a manger pictures for us God providing food for His children. In other words, the manger reveals Jesus as the Bread of Life: God’s nourishment for believers
The idea that spiritual food (not physical food) sustains life was then, and is now, quite radical. Indeed, Jesus taught this principle throughout His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:4; 26:26; John 6:24-71), because men and women are eternal souls living in a temporary body in a temporary universe (2 Peter 3:10).
Physical food only sustains our temporary bodies for the few years we live here on earth. It takes spiritual food to give us spiritual strength to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25) and to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4) against spiritual foes (Ephesians 6:12) as citizens of the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:5). Jesus put it this way
‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ ~ Matthew 4:4b
‘Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you…’
‘And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.’
‘This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.’
‘It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.’ ~ John 6:27a, 35, 50, 63
To experience the abundant life, which Jesus offers us, we must feed on Him: the Word of God (John 1:1-15). Any organism (whether animal, plant or human) that is deprived of food soon degrades, deactivates and dies. Likewise, the Christian who fails to feed on the Word of grows ever weaker, unable to live victoriously for God.
For in him we live, and move, and have our being… ~ Acts 17:28
But the manger pictures even more for us. In Jesus’ day, mangers were primarily found inside stables/barns and were used by domesticated animals inside that stable/barn. Jesus, The Bread of Life, is to be eaten by those living inside God’s stable: the fellowship of believers: the Church. The Word of God is not meant for the unsaved, the undomesticated, those who go their own way and choose their own path in life.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God…
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned… For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:11-12, 14, 16
However, this is not because God has rejected the unsaved. Indeed, every believer was at one time unsaved and in enmity with God. Rather, The Word is unavailable to them who reject God, those who have no room for Him.
There was no room for the Saviour in the inn, so He was laid in a manager. If we want the life Jesus offers, then we must make sure that our hearts have room for Him.
As we feast on the special foods this Christmas, let us remember to feast on The Bread of Life: The Word of God: Jesus. Let us not be full physically and empty spiritually, an abundant life is a life of feasting on Jesus.
Challenge a friend, a loved-one to make room for Jesus in their hearts so that they too can feed from the manger in God’s barn.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. ~ Isaiah 55:2