Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.” Everyone knows the song, and nearly everyone acquaints Christmas and Jesus Christ with that lowly manger on the night of His birth as a human being.
But, beloved, we must make sure that we do not continue to acquaint Jesus Christ with a little baby lying in a manger — helpless and dependent on mommy and daddy to feed, change, clothe, and protect Him. In fact, if we would bring pleasure to the heart of God, we would actually give very little attention to that lowly feeding trough, and we would focus our attention on where Jesus went from there. Because, in actual fact, where He went from there is exactly where we have gone. He took us with Him every step of the way.
Before His lowly birth into the human race, the person we know as Jesus Christ was the second person of the Godhead. He is described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John as “the only-begotten son” of the Father. The Greek term that is translated “only begotten son” actually means a being that never had a time of beginning. And because Jesus was part of the triune Godhead, He had existed for all time just as much as the Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting to note that only before His redeeming work on earth is Jesus referred to by this term. Once He became a human being, suffered and died and rose again, He is never referred to by that particular term again. He is referred to only as the first-born from the dead, or the head of the church. Because He is no longer just God — but is now God and man together, His whole identity has changed.
But in the old covenant, while still the “only begotten son”, He was also the person of the Godhead who would reveal Himself in physical form to man whenever there was a need for that. Every time we see the old covenant fathers receiving a visit from what many Bible translations call “the angel of the Lord,” the men themselves recognized that they were actually in the presence of the Lord Himself. They all recognized that this person who was visiting them was part of the Godhead and, therefore, they addressed Him as Lord or they named the place where they had received Him in honor of having come face to face with their God. Jacob wrestled with that “angel of the Lord,” but when the battle was over, and that “angel” had blessed him with a new name and a new identity, Jacob named the place, “I have seen the face of God”
During the old covenant, those visits by the second person of the Godhead were very short and for very specific reasons, but the Word of God says that “when the time was fully come,” God sent forth His son, born of a woman. In other words, there was a set time at which that person of the Godhead would no longer fleetingly come and go to help man a little bit here and there along the way — but would come and stay as a man so that He could live the life of perfect obedience that a holy God demanded, and then he could give His life to pay for the disobedience of every other man, thereby satisfying God’s justice, His holiness, and His merciful love for His wayward creation.
So when the time was fully come, Jesus obediently got up from His throne, laid aside all the privileges of being part of the Godhead (Philippians 2: 6-7), and took on the same flesh that every other human being had to live in on this earth. Why did He do that? In order to live a life on this earth as a human being, facing everything we face in a world cursed because of sin and terrorized by satan and his hordes of demons. Jesus had to live life as a real man — obedient to God’s covenant — anointed by the Holy Spirit with power for ministry — and He had to do it perfectly. He did it, and the Word of God says He did it for you and me.
But then He willingly allowed the Father to lay onto Him all the sin, all the rebellion, all the hatefulness that we had perpetrated — as well as all the curse for breaking God’s laws. He was beaten with stripes beyond recognition for our healing, and He hung on the cross until He had given up every ounce of His blood for our sin. The Word says He died for all, and so in God’s mind, we all died with Him. (Romans 6:3-9, Galatians 2: 20).
So let’s leave the manger and go on to the cross. We hung there in Jesus until the price was paid. But when His body came down from that cross and was put into the grave, that act too was simply one more step in the journey. It was not a stopping place. Because three days later, when God the Father was able to proclaim the price was paid and He could then justly give eternal life to the human race because of what Jesus had done on our behalf, Jesus rose from that grave. The Word says (Ephesians 2: 1-7) that God brought us up out of that grave with Jesus — in Him, to be exact. But that’s still just one step in the journey. There’s more, and it’s the most exciting part of all.
When Jesus had finished His redeeming work and was resurrected — carrying us with Him — He then moved back into Heaven — right into the throne room from which He had begun His journey. But this time, according to the Word of God, He did not enter that throne room as an individual person. He entered it as the Head of His new Body — the body of believers — who died, were buried, and were resurrected in Him. Let’s refer once more to that passage in Ephesians 2, which says clearly that God seated us– in Jesus — at His very right hand — to reign there forever.And what do we reign over? Why everything in life. Romans 5:17 says, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.”
So, beloved, this Christmas do not linger at the manger too long. Observe it, yes, as the symbol of the fact that the Lord of the universe willingly came to this cursed planet to accomplish God’s purpose of salvation. Move on to the cross, but do not linger there too long either. Move on to the grave and experience the glorious, exhilarating reality of having been brought up out of death into eternal life. But go on further. Go forward from the open grave to the throne. That’s where we have our reality now. We are seated in Jesus at the right hand of the Father.
And the next time you find yourself in serious trouble — in circumstances that look impossible — remember that you are not supposed to be looking at those circumstances from a world point of view. You need to look at them from where you are actually seated.. Look down on those problems and those circumstances, and when you pray about them, don’t grovel and whine and beg. You’re praying from your position at the right hand of the God of the universe. Let His faith, his joy, and His vision be your own and take authority over those circumstances. Proclaim God’s Word to them and over them.
You’re in a royal position now because the Lord you serve and worship is no longer lying in a manger — no longer hanging on a cross — no longer lying in a grave. He’s reigning at the right hand of the Father God — and so are you. Making us righteous enough to take that position, beloved, is the whole reason Jesus came to the manger in Bethlehem. For Him, putting us in our legal position on the throne at the right hand of God is what Christmas is all about.