A Baby in a Manger (Really, Actually, Literally)

Advent came alive for me this year. A time of anticipation and expectation, Advent is the season when we remember the birth of Jesus and look forward to His return.

Advent has drawn me to the Old Testament, revisiting favorites like Isaiah and opening new-to-me books like Lamentations and Micah. These prophets and poets express a longing and anticipation that, if I’m honest, is much different than my own. The Jewish people’s longing for the Messiah was thick and heavy, like real maple syrup, while mine is more like that thin stuff at IHOP.

I often forget that (or can’t relate to) the Jews before Christ. They really, actually, literally were waiting for thousands of years for the Promised One, the Righteous One. Expectant, at times, but so often desperate, hoping that the Savior they long for would really, actually, literally come, and come soon. More than that, that He would have the power to transform their lives.

And how their lives needed transformation!

We read in Lamentations 1:3 that, “Judah had gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.”

Oppressed. Broken. Besieged. Afflicted. Chained. Seemingly forsaken. People of darkness, all of them.

Transgressors. Idol worshippers. Disobedient people, all of them.

Even more than the external transformation of their circumstances—which was and is not promised to God’s people—they needed God to replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and to put His Spirit in them, causing them to walk in His ways (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Verse after verse pile on me, their weight increasing with each new description, each complaint, each picture of suffering and loss. Oh Lord, how could you allow this to happen? Oh God, how could you redeem your people even from this? Oh Lord, can you still redeem me?

Then a light. A breath caught in my throat.

Words of hope:

This I call to mind, and therefore if have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23).

He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19).

You came near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” You have taken up my cause, O Lord; You have redeemed my life (Lamentations 3:57-58).

The Spirit soars within me, leaping and bouncing. My heart skips a beat; my stomach jumps and drops. I burst with an involuntary laugh and wipe away a streaking tear of joy.

Praise the King! Hosanna in the Highest! Glory to God!

You were there! You had not forgotten Your people. You can redeem. You will redeem. You will have Your Bride!

You are here. You have not forgotten me. You can redeem. You will redeem. You will have me, Your Bride, holy and blameless in Your sight.

In true God fashion, His good, pleasing, and perfect ways for redeeming His people was accomplished not through a word, a snap, a breath, or a thought, but through a baby.

In this season of Advent, I have been reflecting on the illogical nature of this decision.

A baby. In a manger.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked. The Bible is filled with these kind of surprises.

A carpenter? What happened to a warrior king?

Nazareth? Nothing good can come from Nazareth.

12 uneducated disciples tasked with transforming the world? Wouldn’t a large social media campaign and a charismatic preacher be more effective?

Lepers and prostitutes? Jesus, don’t you think you should have networked with more, um uhh, influential people?

Parables? Plain English (or Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek) would have been a bit easier to understand, if you ask me!

Most shocking of all, He submitted himself to death—even death on a cross—to reconcile the undeserving and broken sinners, who are precious in His eyes (Isaiah 53:5-6).

God, you were sure right when you said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).


Through my own sorrow and that of my friends, I have tasted for myself the desperation we all have for Immanuel, God With Us. In the waiting, in the wanting, we, too, say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:18).

We can relate to the Jews, longing for their Messiah. But praise be the God that we are waiting no longer, for He has come and made His home among us and in us.

In the little town of Bethlehem was born on Christmas Day the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. A Child has come for His mother. The Son for His friends and enemies. The Lover for His beloved. The Maker for His workmanship.

“So sing out with joy for the brave little boy is our Savior!” (Andrew Peterson, The Theme of My Song/Reprise).

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