Message for Christmas Eve on Luke 2:1-20 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas
Sometimes I try to imagine what Mary was thinking about on that trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She was losing whoever stood by her in this unplanned pregnancy. She had to know that she would not make it back to Nazareth to deliver this baby—so her mind must have been full of questions. Where will she deliver? Who will help her? Will Jospeh’s distant relatives welcome her?—These are all anxieties around the question: How will my needs be met?
Mary, the Mother of our Lord faces the same question we all do, no matter our circumstances, gender, age, or stage in life, because life and it’s challenges are always changing around us. How will my needs be met?—
- How will my needs be met as I age?
- How will my needs be met with no health insurance?
- How will my needs be met as I live with so much grief
- or with inflation of whatever anxieties raise questions in your own mind.
We all know how Mary’s needs were met—not ideal circumstances, by any means, but they did have a roof over their head, and she had help. Joseph’s relatives did take them in, but traveling slowly, they were the last ones to arrive. The “inn,” which is not a motel as we imagine it, but is really the “guest room” of a home—was already full, as was the rest of the house. The only free space was at the front end of the home, off the living platform, where the animals stayed at night lending their warmth to the whole household.
But there is another clue in the story that lets us know that not only Mary’s needs will be met in the future, but all our needs, too. We have heard it perhaps a hundred times, but maybe never paused to ponder in our hearts the true meaning it conveys.
It’s the word, “manger”—did you notice that Luke repeats the word 3 times? A careful writer usually picks another word to avoid repetition. After using the word, "manger” the first time, one would pick “feeding box” or “trough” the second time, or possibly, “in the hay” the third time, instead of “manger" over and over again.
But not Luke, He makes no effort at literary variety and in fact, does the opposite. He seems quite intent on making sure we read or hear that word, “manger” at least 3 times: Mary laid Jesus, this Messiah, in a manger; the angel tells the shepherds the sign will be a baby lying in a manger; the shepherds go and find Jesus just as the angels said, “lying in a manger.”
Why the repetition of this one word, this feed box for donkeys, sheep and goats?
By using the word, manger repeatedly, Luke foreshadows, in neon, truths about this Messiah he wants us to watch for in Jesus’ mission of nourishment, care and sustenance.
For this Savior will grow up and take 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feed 5,000 people. Jesus will become the manger for hungry people, feeding them, providing for their physical needs.
This Messiah, will grow up and touch lepers and restore sight—healing people. Jesus will become the manger of healing nourishment for people seeking for their bodies to made whole.
This Messiah will grow up and welcome sinners, and the outcast and rejected, and provide the soul sustenance of community, forgiveness, and acceptance –the bread of new life. Jesus will become the manger of shared community where all are welcome.
And this Messiah now lying in a manger, will take the bread of the Passover and say, "this is my body given for you," and this Messiah, will take the cup of wine and say, "this is my blood shed for you."
This Messiah, lying in a manger, will feed us with his very life—with his body broken and blood outpoured,
• so that we might have forgiveness, and life,
• so that we might have strength and love,
• so that we might have nourishment and peace now and through eternity.
The Messiah and Savior, first held in the feed box for animals, becomes our food—providing us with every source of sustenance and nurture we could ever need or imagine.
Yes, Mary did have her needs met, and so do we. Our Savior Jesus Christ, born among the family of creation, human and animal together, lying in a manger, provides for all our needs—physical, emotional, spiritual, communal, eternal.
So, ask the Lord for what you need this Christmas, this new year. Trust the Messiah in the manger, and the Christ risen and present at this Table to be your eternal source of sustenance, offering you the hope, peace, joy, and love you need for today, tomorrow, and always.