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Away in a manger


From humble beginnings came a true gift

December 24, 2020

Ever since my girls were big enough to hitch a ride on a luggage cart, they’ve been in love with hotels.

The run-of-the-mill places that our family visited before the pandemic seemed like king’s palaces to the tykes, who couldn’t wait to take a ride on the elevator.

How impressed the girls were with the plush pillows, flat-screen TVs and kid-sized refrigerators. Being able to commandeer the remote and get sweet treats from vending machines down the hall added to their delight.

I had those stays in the back of my mind when we recently read the story of Jesus’ birth as part of a reading lesson for my 4-year-old daughter. Her 6-year-old sister sat with us to listen.

“The Beginner’s Bible” tells the story that many Christians learn in Sunday school – that Joseph and a pregnant Mary arrived in Bethlehem and were told there was no room at the inn.

It was at that point in the story that I decided to ask the girls a question, “What if we arrived in Cincinnati and they told us, ‘We don’t have any rooms, but you can stay out back with the animals?’”

Seeing a look of shock on their faces, I explained that that’s indeed what happened to Jesus’ family right before his birth.  

We went on to read how Joseph made a warm place for Mary to rest and that when Jesus was born, Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth and gently placed him in a manger. The significance of his birth would soon be known to the world.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

Such humble beginnings! The king of peace and righteousness had not even a crib for his head.

At a time of year when it’s easy to get caught up in material things, it’s good to remember the circumstances of Jesus’ birth: that he came to dwell among us, without the accommodations of a king.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” John 1:14 (NIV). “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As my children grow older and re-read the story of Jesus’ birth, perhaps even to their own children, I hope they remember the true gift of Christmas is not what the world gives us but rather the Messiah himself.

Darla Carter, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Thursday, December 24, 2020, Christmas Eve (Year B)

First Reading Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96:1-13
Second Reading Titus 2:11-14
Gospel Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Today’s Focus:  Birth of Jesus

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Thomas Abraham, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Bob Abrams, Presbyterian Men

Let us pray:

Lord, we thank you for your presence. Help us to remain grounded in you this holiday season. Help us to appreciate the things in our lives that we often take for granted: a warm bed, a hot meal, even the clothes on our backs. Help us to remember those who are less fortunate. We thank you for our many blessings and welcome you into our homes and our hearts this day, as we celebrate your birth. May our cups overflow with your love, grace and mercy. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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