The Cradle

A Jesus-Centered Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We perhaps know it by heart. We have celebrated Christmas since many of us can remember. We know the story and have merged the nativity passages together to make a beautiful Christmas pageant. We have made Christmas Day more reverent than any other day yet all days should be celebrated as such. So why do we make a big deal about this once a year? Well, the answer to that question is that it is a big deal. God Himself, became flesh and dwelt among us for the sole reason of providing an atonement for our sins so that we might have a right relationship with God Almighty. The only way for that to be possible, was for God to become just like us. God has designed each of us to be born, not hatched, not just brought into existence out of thin air, but the be born. So for God to become like us, He had to do it is a way that He was born.
When we read from the Luke narrative of Christ being born, there is great detail about how that happened. In fact, in one verse, Luke 2:7, we can see that the Christ child was indeed born, wrapped in cloths and then placed in a make-shift cradle called a manger. Listen to the detail:
Luke 2:7 NIV84
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
We see that an actual birth took place. The word for birth means bring forth, delivered, and that fruit was produced from a seed. There is great detail to mention that the child is the first-born. We know from other passages that Jesus had siblings but the attention here is that this child was the first-born.
The Old Testament law was very ritualistic. We learn about one ritual concerning the first-born. God made it very clear that the first born is belonged to Him:
Numbers 3:13 NIV84
for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”
The fact that Jesus was born and then wrapped in cloths was an indication that this was not a baby that just appeared, but one that was indeed born. It was part of the custom and culture to wrap the baby in cloths to keep their limbs straight. We learn in Ezekiel the customary process of a newborn by the example of a child that was not taken care of properly.
Ezekiel 16:4 NIV84
On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.
Luke shows that was customary care given to this child. Because of this tradition and the way babies were wrapped, there is no doubt that this was a newborn baby. This is very important to understand.
We also see in this one verse, that the wrapped baby was placed in a manger. The Greek word used here is phatne which means feeding trough. Incidentally, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem means the “house of bread.” Later is Jesus’ life, He calls himself the Bread of Life.
John 6:35 NIV84
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
It is interesting that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread and placed in a feeding trough. Much could be said about this make-shift cradle. The word cradle is a word that describes the place where an infant will rest. In this passage it is the manger. So what is so important about the cradle of Christ? First, we need to know that it was ritually unclean.

Ritually Unclean

Where Jesus was physically born would have been considered unclean. Childbirth made a room ritually unclean for a period of time. We learn from Leviticus 12:2 that when a son is born, the woman is ceremonially unclean for a period of seven days. She cannot go into anything sacred or a sanctuary for 33 days. We learn from Luke 2 that the cradle in which Jesus was placed, became an altar for worship. God removed the stigma associated with religion and helped create a new righteousness.
Romans 3:21 NIV84
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This ritually unclean cradle has given us a new form of redemption. His name is Jesus! This was prophesied in much of the Old Testament.
Isaiah 49:6 NIV84
he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
The apostles testified to this as well.
Acts 13:23 NIV84
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.
The manger disguised as a cradle become an altar that has liberated mankind from the institution of religion and enabled us to have a relationship with God Almighty! The ritually unclean became the royally un-regimented.

Royally Un-regimented

When a king comes into a new kingdom, a new set royal support comes into play. There is usually a pomp and circumstances routine that goes into play as the new king is coronated and the throne established. The king’s regiment is paraded to demonstrate the power of the king. Not so with this King. The Baby born and placed in the make-shift cradle did not have soldiers attend or the regalia demonstrated as one might think. We know from Luke 2:7 that Mary wrapped the baby in cloths as we the custom of the day. We also in in Luke 2:12 that was going to be the identifying characteristic the first visitors would see.
Luke 2:12 NIV84
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
We usually think that a king is born into privilege with a a noble birth.
Ecclesiastes 10:17 NIV84
Blessed are you, O land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time— for strength and not for drunkenness.
Baby King Jesus was not born as ruler of a land. He did not have a palace of marble guarded by royal regiments by a stall surrounded by the animals that were considered unclean. In fact, we would see Him as an adult not have a place to lay His head to sleep;
Matthew 8:20 NIV84
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
We see in today’s text that the Baby King Jesus was first -born of Mary. Traditionally the first born gets the bulk of the inheritance. However, this first born received poor honor to be born first to a young peasant girl that had no inheritance to share. Yet, we know that this was prophecy fulfilled.
Isaiah 7:14 NIV84
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Even though it was a prophecy fulfilled, it still came in an unexpecting way.

Realistically Unexpected

We do not know why Joseph did not plan the trip to Bethlehem better and made advanced reservations. Obviously, the trip was made in a hurry and arrangements were scarce. Maybe they did not calculate the due date right. Nevertheless, the young parents to be found themselves in a predicament. They did not have a plan for the birth. There is no record of a midwife or nurse helping with this birth. The indication is that Mary herself wrapped the baby in cloths and laid him in the manger. We do know that He was under the law.
Galatians 4:4 NIV84
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,
The Bible declares that there was no room for them in the inn. Do you think if the owner of the house knew the Son of God was to be born that he would have made room? There are so many parallels in Scripture about making room. For example, the Psalmist declared
Psalm 10:4 NIV84
In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Do you have room for the Son of God? It seems in our society today there are many places that do not have room for the Son of God. Certain social circles would ridicule the teenager for trying to make room for the Son of God. Certain schools have no room for the Son of God. Certain religious institutions even still have their traditions that closely examined make no room for the Son of God. What about our general conversation, is there room for the Sonf of God there? Our lives are so busy we do not pause and make room for the King of Kings. We often sprawl our lives like an urban crawl that is seen on the outskirts of some of our lager cities. We build things in our lives so fast and so furious that we fail to make room for the Son of God.
Isaiah 5:8 NIV84
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.
The Lord makes a way when there seems there is no way. He provided the lowest of birthplaces for a reason. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “How low the King of Glory stoops, and how gloriously He lifts the lowly to to share His glory.”
These young parents did even have the opportunity to be blessed with a baby shower. They used a trough for the cradle. Mary gave birth where the guests did not stay. They did not have a birthing suite. In fact, the place of birth was a place that was very observable. Is it not just like our God to use earth’s lowest to bring salvation from heaven’s highest? God in His rich mercy decided to reconcile mankind by making His flesh identify with the lowest of the low so nothing and no one would be left out.
John 1:14 NIV84
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This reconciliation God provided is so real yet so unexpected we do not know what do with it.
2 Corinthians 5:18–21 NIV84
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Reconciled Un-imagined

It is unimaginable that God would do this for us, but He did. As a result we are free! The Son of God born in that city of Bethlehem set in to motion our freedom.
Hebrews 9:15 NIV84
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
This reconciliation frees us from our self. A new found freedom is incredible!
Proverbs 6:5 NIV84
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
What freedom we have being reconciled in Christ!
We are also reconciled because Christ can identify with us coming into the world just was we came into the world, as babies. In doing so, we are identified with Christ so that His atonement has freed us from any stain of sin if we ask for forgiveness from Him! The prophesied Christ became for us our reconciliation unimaginable!
Isaiah 1:18 NIV84
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
What does the baby born in a manger turned cradle mean to you?
How does this help you identify with the Son of God?
Have you fully surrendered to Him today?
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