The Dark Manger

dark manger

I walked down a street one evening recently where many homes were decorated for Christmas. Some had elaborate displays with a lot of lights; others displayed a simple arrangement and very few lights, or anything else that would really grab your attention. What caught my eye among all of these displays was a simple little manger scene with just the basics: Mary, Joseph, an animal and a shepherd. It was more meaningful than all of the others, because no light was shining on the manger scene, and baby Jesus was not present.* Only a distant streetlight made the display visible in the darkness, since it had no light of its own to illuminate it. Whether the darkened scene was intentional or just an oversight remains a mystery, but its current state of darkness gives it much more prominence than all of the brightest and most elaborate displays on the street combined.

Over two thousand years ago, the real manger scene in Bethlehem was in just as much darkness as this little representation is now. There was some type of light there, naturally, maybe a torch or small fire, but the type of darkness I’m talking about goes far beyond physical light. It is known as spiritual darkness, the absence of God in the heart. True joy and happiness only come when Jesus reigns in our hearts and lives. Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

When Jesus was born, then the true light from heaven shone upon the world. He was God in human flesh, or Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”

God the Father loves us more than we could ever comprehend, even to the point that He would send His innocent, sinless Son to this earth to pay the ultimate penalty for the sins of every person on this earth—eternal death. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The more sin there is in this world, the more spiritual darkness is present as well. Evil loves darkness, and when the world is full of darkness, evil freely abounds. If the world had no real means of redemption (being free from the consequences of sin), it would be hopelessly lost to evil and sin.

When Jesus came to live in this world, He broke the stronghold of darkness. He fulfilled all the requirements of the laws God set out in the Old Testament of the Bible. He never sinned Himself, but He took upon Himself all of the sins of every person in the world (those who had previously died, those currently alive, and all yet to be born) when He died on the cross. Then, when He declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30), sin and darkness no longer reigned—they were forever defeated! But this victory is not automatic for us. We have to accept by faith that He died for us, and believe that His victory over sin is our victory over sin. We must, as well, make Him the lord or ruler over our life, and no longer let our own self remain in command. We must admit to God and ourselves that we are sinners (wrong-doers) and repent (turn completely) from our sinful ways. When we surrender our lives to Him, we become the light of the world as well as His Spirit enters into us.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

This Christmas season, are you going to continue to remain in the darkness, or are you going to let the Light of the World (Jesus) be the light of your life? Will you be ashamed to have His light shine on you because of the sins you cling onto in your life? He came to this earth and overcame the darkness forever. Now is the time to let Him overcome the darkness in your life too. For more information about the way to God, click here.

–James Pangburn

*(Ed. note: Baby Jesus was not stolen from this display, nor was His absence an oversight. Many feel that the manger display is more accurate if baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas Eve, since He had not been born until then.)

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