"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1: 14
A thought hit me this past December while I was on the choir retreat preparing for the Christmas Night of Worship. I couldn't actually sing on the retreat because I was struggling with laryngitis and a terrible cough. I know I should have been paying closer attention to learning the words to the songs, but a thought kept popping into my mind and I would get distracted. Even as Ken, our choir director, led us in a brief study of the Luke 2:1-14 passage of Jesus' birth, my mind and heart traveled a different direction. I had given my choir sheep (those placed in my little care group) a small bottle of fresh flowers for their room and I had attached a card with the scripture from Jeremiah 15:16 on each one. It reads, "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of Hosts." The thought of eating God's word…hum? It replayed as a stuck needle on a vinyl record. Then I heard him read, "…and laid him in a manger." As a beautifully twined thread, I began to combine these two strands of ideas ~ for a manger is a place for eating. My imagination soared as I envisioned the birth of my Savior and the events surrounding it. The place, the anxiety, the fear, the animals, the smell, the touch, the sounds, and the unforeseeable problems that came with the night when there was no room in the inn!
My inquisitive mind began to question: Why was Jesus placed in a manger…feeding trough?
I couldn't seem to get past this. Why not place baby Jesus on a bale of hay? Why not propped against or laid on a camel saddle? (My mother has one of these from Saudi Arabia and it is made of nice wool and is soft and warm!) Why not that? I began to think of other things that might be in a stable. Blankets for the backs of the stallions or donkey's upon which a saddle would rest. Why not place Him in a pile of hay with remnants of clothing to soften it and near Mary's side? Why not let others hold him for surely they traveled in a caravan with other relatives! The details of the "place" are not specific but the detail of where he is laid seems to indicate importance. There is some debate as to whether or not He was actually in a stable or in a guest room on the lower floor of an inn in which travelers stayed with their animals. Whatever it was called, it still was not a desirable place to give birth. It really wasn't the place that kept bothering me but what they chose to lay Him in. A manger! A feeding trough. A place to eat...receive food or drink…daily,... that which sustains life! The Bread of Life (Jn 6:35) and the Living Water (Jn 4:14) had become flesh that night. He had been laid in a long open wooden or stone box / trough where animals eat from! I don't think it was by chance that Mary laid Him there. He is the only one who can satisfy the hunger and thirst of our very soul. Selah! (Pause and think about that!)
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." Jn 7:37
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." Matt. 5:6
"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger,
and he who believes in Me will never thirst." Jn 6:35
I also found it interesting that He was born when Caesar Augustus issued the decree for a census; a time of new beginnings and a new count, people were being recognized, a new record, a new time ~ "This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria." Luke 2:2 It brings a new thought for me as I reflect on 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Even then as a baby, He was making something new, a passage from law to grace, and a one time atonement for sin. In Revelation 21:5 , He declares yet again, "Behold I am making all things new." [These thoughts will require more study!] He is the God of new…and beginnings.
As we face this new year, begin anew, set goals and take record, I urge you to stop and take census of your heart. Is Jesus there…on the throne? Have you recognized Him as the One who sustains you? Are you partaking of this Bread and Water daily? The Word has become flesh! And as Jeremiah said, Your words were found and I ate them and it was the joy and rejoicing of my heart.
Jeremiah was known in the Bible as a man to whom the Word of the Lord came. Throughout Scripture, the word of the Lord continually comes to man! His desire is to commune with us; to have communication. As Abraham heard from the Lord (Gen. 22), he obeyed only knowing part of what God actually had in mind for him and Isaac. Simon Peter had to hear Jesus repeat words to him three times before he got it! (Acts 10) Jonah heard the Lord clearly and then decided to ignore and disobey. But in Jonah chapter 3:1, the word of the Lord came to him a second time and provided him a second chance. This year, I want to be certain to hear the voice of the Lord - but not stop there. I want to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only. James 1:22
This past year, I asked the Lord to give me one word to help me stay focused. My word for 2013 was intentional. This year, I have asked again for another word. He has given me His specific message in this string of words found in Proverbs 16:1-4a
"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its own purpose…"
I have underlined words that have leapt out to me. For me, this verses means: I take action toward moving forward from a deep desire that reigns in my heart, but it is the Lord that speaks the acceptable and perfect direction or answer for my life.
I think I'm on the right track but it is the Lord who examines my attitude and the thoughts behind my plan. When I entrust my works to the Lord, my plans will be established or set into motion because His plans have become mine. "It is the Lord who ultimately establishes our plans and allows them to come to fruition. Our plans and decisions ought always to be made in submission to God’s purposes for each of us, looking to Him to accomplish His will in us. Our great need is to rest in God’s sovereignty and seek to link our lives with the purposes of God. The meaning of this verse is akin to verse 9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” This emphasizes that God not only has the last word, but also the soundest and best. And He has the power and authority to do it." (Keathley 2004) There is a purpose to everything that the Lord has made, tangible and intangible! There is a divine purpose for my life and yours!
My personal challenge: Devote my all to the Lord, seeking His direction. Promise: Established plans!
I don't really have a specific goal right now for the new year but to wait and hear from the Lord, and then, act accordingly and wait for God's plans to take root and grow…become established! How exciting!
I have eaten these words and it brings joy and rejoicing! It's gonna be an exciting year discovering and developing His plan! Just as Jeremiah was known as the man to whom the word of the Lord came, I too, want to be known as the same and the one who obeyed that Word.
So when you think of the manger (and I hope you think about it more often than at Christmas time), think of feasting on the Bread and Water. The Word has come. It has been spoken, it has come in flesh, it has come in written form, it has been preached and its message has been displayed by those who hear the words of the Lord. Join me this year in eating His word and digesting His plans; then, move forward - toward His perfect will that He is establishing for your life. You know it's gonna be good...
for it comes from God's heart and love for you.
He does all things well and...That excites me! How about you?
Have a Blessed and Happy NEW Year and remember…
You are what you eat!
"...meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." Joshua 1:8
I can think of no greater success than to know my Lord more deeply. Staying in His word is a sure way to make that happen!
Anticipating a Joyful 2014,
Keathley III, J. Hampton, Resting in God's Sovereignty (Proverbs 16:1-4). Bible.org. June 8, 2004. Accessed January 3, 2014. https://bible.org/article/resting-god’s-sovereignty-proverbs-161-4
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