I Forgot Who was Lying in the Manger
08 Dec 2015
By: Alyssa Spang
It was my own thoughtlessness that caused me to end up in the ditch. The air was humid
and I had been biking on mushy gravel for at least thirty miles. So I let my mind drift away, and I didn’t notice the hazardous ditch on the trail. My legs landed awkwardly in the ditch and my bike landed painfully on my legs.
But this was nothing compared to what would come next.
“Don’t move,” another rider said. “There. Is. A. Snake.”
“Close?” I could taste the fear in my own voice. I am not particularly fond of snakes in general, and I am even less inclined to like them when I’m pinned under my own bicycle.
The snake was close. I was helpless.
The snake slithered off with a bit of encouragement from the other biker. She lifted my bike off of me so I could climb out of the ditch and continue my journey to the next campsite. But, I’ll never forget those ten seconds when I was helpless; I didn’t like the feeling.
I’d venture to guess that most people prefer not to be helpless. That’s not too much of a stretch, right? We tend to like to be in control.
Bear with me for a moment, all of this going to relate to Christmas; to that famous manger scene we see retold on countless stained glass windows and model nativities.
But first, we need to go back to long before the world even needed a Savior. We need to go back to the beginning.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5 ESV)
I’m no theologian; I’m just a curious girl looking to know her Savior more. The thoughts that compose the rest of this piece are not conclusive. There’s more to be said on the topic, but I’ve decided that if I were to sit down with Jesus, I would ask Him a question: What was it like to go from speaking the universe into existence to crying helplessly into the night as an infant child?
Let me reword the question: What was it like to have the power to create all the beautiful things I have seen from absolutely nothing to being laid powerless in a dirty manger?
I couldn’t handle ten seconds of powerlessness. I hated it. I was terrified of the snake.
Now, I know that the parallel between my bicycle day dreaming mishap and Jesus choosing to become flesh to take on the sin of the world is imperfect. Jesus intentionally chose to come to this world because He loves us (John 3:16). I certainly did not choose to be pinned next to a nasty snake.
It’s a bit tragically comical that I am taking such a brief, momentary experience and trying to use it to articulate what Jesus did for us when He came as a child. But the ridiculousness of my parallel brings me to my second point.
It’s because helplessness feels so horrific that I would have to ask Jesus one follow up question: What does it feel like to love so perfectly that you gave up your rightful place next to your Father so that you could save rebellious humans?
You see, Jesus died for all of us: those who believe and those who don’t. Jesus also died for the people who rejected, and continue to reject, Him.
I don’t have that kind of humility. I don’t have that kind of love. I don’t choose to love the people I interact with on a daily basis. Often, I choose to stay where I’m comfortable. I choose to stay where I’m in control.
So this Christmas I’m asking Jesus to show me what it means to love like He loved. It’s not going to be easy. I’m not a humble person. I like to win. However, it’s become abundantly clear that what Christ did when He clothed Himself in ragged flesh is way too far outside my comfort zone. I’ve forgotten how much He loves me, and what follows is that I’ve forgotten how to love.
This Christmas, every time I see a manger scene, I am going to recite John 1. I want to remember how radical, strange, and downright incomprehensible it was for Jesus, the One by whom all things were made, to humble Himself and become a human child. Every time I see a manger scene, I want to see the Speaker of stars, Who put our desperate need for grace before His own right to Heaven, by walking with us on this dusty earth. I am choosing to see Jesus as the powerful Sustainer of creation saving us through His humility.
Finally, I’m asking Jesus to teach me how to love.
I imagine I’m not alone in my struggle to comprehend the grace that Jesus brought. Think about Jesus with me. Think about who He actually was before He came to the earth when you look at the manger. Think about how much He loves you. Then, show the world the love that only Jesus can bring.
Merry Christmas! Don’t forget who Jesus is.
Photo Cred: Daily Bible Blast
Alyssa Spang teaches English at Grace Prep High School in Pennsylvania. When she’s not hanging out with literary-minded high school students, she’s probably sitting at a coffee shop or wandering through the woods. Aside from her Creator, there are few things she loves more than freshly fallen snow. Her short story “Let me Tell You about Mount Vesuvius” was published in the collaborative novel Frozen by Fire. She hopes continue writing in the future.