Adoration of the Shepherds – Gerard van Honthorst (1590 – 1656)
Our family has a great affinity for Nativity scenes. We collect them, display them and enjoy looking at Nativity scenes from countries around the world. The variety of styles are fascinating and intriguing, yet their message is the same, “a savior has been born…who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:11). It has been our custom that the manger remains empty until the dark hours of Christmas Eve. Our family gathers around the manger as Jesus is placed lovingly in the manger with reverence and awe. Traditionally, Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus is then read (Lk 2:1-20) or the birth of Emmanuel (Is 7:10-14), followed by a prayer of blessing such as this:
God of every nation and people,
from the very beginning of creation
you have made manifest your love:
when our need for a Savior was great
you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary.
To our lives he brings joy and peace,
justice, mercy, and love.
Lord, bless all who look upon this manger;
may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus,
and raise our thoughts to Him,
who is God-with-us and Savior of all,
and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
As we gaze on the beauty of the Christ Child in the manager, Silent Night plays softly in the background as we ponder God’s love for us and His tender mercy in sending His Son to die as expiation for our sins.
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:1-3
When we look upon the empty manger prior to Christmas, our hearts long for the coming of Jesus. We yearn to see Jesus resting peacefully in the manger. We await the coming of Jesus in darkness. It is a period of joyful expectation, waiting for the Savior to shine His light into our lives and our world. Come Lord Jesus, come!
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:6-7
Christmas is a difficult time for many who have suffered losses such as a child turning away from the faith, family strife, divorce, or the death of a loved one. Anxiety and fear can drive out the joy and anticipation of the coming of Christ. God knows your pain. He is with you in the midst of your trials. He seeks to comfort you and give you strength to endure the hardships you face. Turn to the Lord; give Him all of your fears, doubts and worries. He loves you and wants to bless you and give you peace.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18
We are all broken in some way. Our hearts are empty mangers that only Jesus can fill. Do not be like the innkeeper that turned Jesus away. Graciously welcome Jesus into the empty manger of your heart. Let him lay His head upon your chest. He wants to reside in you and give you peace and joy. Come Lord Jesus, come and make a dwelling place in our hearts.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:19, 22
Psalm 34 is for those who struggle during this time of year. Meditate on its promises. Christ came to earth to show you the extent of His love for you, dying for you so that you may gain eternal life. Embrace Him and love Him in return for all that He has done for you. Give your life to Him. Let Jesus be Lord of your life; give Him control; rest in His loving arms as He guides you on the path of righteousness. God has a great plan for you. Trust that He will bring it to completion. Give Him thanks for His great glory. Hallelujah!
Jesus…said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
This painting of the Nativity is one of our favorites because the only light in the scene is radiating from the Christ Child. May the light of Christ shine brightly in your heart and may His blessings be upon you this Christmas.
Dennis & Rose Wingfield