What Is Keeping Us from the Manger this Christmas?

Even though Jesus is the “reason for the season” it is easy to let the season take over and miss time with Jesus. 

Luke 10:38-42, a loose adaptation–Christmas at Martha’s:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way Christmas caroling in the area, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her Christmas party. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught about His birth in the manger and enjoyed singing carols and visiting with all the guests. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing, the presents that needed wrapping, and worrying about running out of appetizers. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. Martha, come sit here and let me tell you about the first Christmas…

We can let many things get in the way of us finding Christ this Christmas. 

What is keeping you from the manger this Christmas?

1. Doubt? Is doubt keeping you from the manger? How do we know He is really the Messiah?

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God’s prophets wrote:

Isaiah 7:14 (NLT) 

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin[a] will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 9:7 (NLT) 

His government and its peace   will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Micah 5:2 (NLT) 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.

Matthew 1:18 (NLT) 

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 2:1 (NLT) 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem

Luke 2:34-35 (NLT)

Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Matthew 2:23, (NLT)

So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Jesus was born of a young virgin, in Bethlehem, to the house of David. He was a Nazarene and was crucified for our sin. He fulfilled all the prophecies written about him. 

Luke 16:31 (NIV) 

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “

Don’t let doubt keep you away. God is not afraid of our questions and doubts. He has provided answers, and He will show you He is real if you will let Him.

2. Public Opinion? Sometimes we worry about what others will think if we take this “religious stuff” too seriously. I’ve had friends who knew they would be disowned from their families if they followed Christ and others who knew they would be teased and ridiculed by their friends.

Mary understood this concern. She was a young virgin engaged to be married, and suddenly she was pregnant in a culture that could lawfully kill a woman who was unfaithful or promiscuous.

Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. 

Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT) 

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Public opinion didn’t stop Mary and Joseph from following Christ. They trusted God more than they worried about what others thought, and they embraced His plan. It wasn’t easy, I’m sure.  It is never easy to go against public opinion. It is never easy to take a stand for faith. But if we are to be Jesus’ disciples, that is exactly what we must do.

Matthew 5:10, 12 (NLT)

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs…Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

John 15:20 (NLT)

Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.

As difficult as it may be, I pray we won’t allow public opinion or “cancel culture” to stop us from following Christ. I pray we would respond to God’s calling and plan as Mary did—with worship, and as Joseph did—with obedience.

3. No room? Our lives can get so busy. We can even get so busy with ministry we forget about God and our relationship with Him.

There was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem that night.

Luke 2:6-7 (NLT) 

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Is there room for Him in our lives today?

John 8:37 (NLT)

Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

My prayer is that we make room in our lives and schedules for Jesus—that we will be still in His presence and let Him fill our lives with His Spirit.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT) 

“Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

4. Work? Work and school consume our time and energy to the point that we have nothing left for family or God.

The shepherds were workers. They cared about their jobs, their flocks, and took their responsibilities seriously. But, especially that night, they had their priorities straight.

Luke 2:8-20 (NLT) 

That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.

The shepherds were busy doing their jobs that night, but when they heard the good news, they left immediately to see Jesus. They worshiped Him. They told others what they had seen, and they returned to work, but they had forever been changed. I imagine the night air was filled with praises until the shepherds fell asleep content and at peace. 

What about us?

Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 (NLT)

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves…I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had

worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There

was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

Mark 8:36 (NLT) 

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Following Christ means we make Him our priority. It doesn’t mean we neglect our work. It should mean that we keep our priorities straight and become more reliable and devoted workers in our jobs because we are serving God when we serve others. Christ should make a difference in our lives…work, school, and home. But He must be our first priority.

When you go to sleep at night, are you lying down in peace and thankfulness to the Lord? Or are you lying down with a burden on your shoulders and a million things on your mind? 

My prayer is that we take time to bow at the manger. Take time to worship and to pray and to leave our burdens with the Lord. God offers us rest. Let Him give you that gift this Christmas.

5. Timing? Sometimes timing can keep us from worshiping at the manger because we are tired of waiting on God. We want answers to our prayers now, in our timing and our way. Yet, we know God’s ways are not our ways. We know we should wait on God’s timing and trust His wisdom. But waiting is hard. And we tend to either start grumbling or become discouraged. If He is God, shouldn’t He be in charge?  If I’m telling Him what to do and when to do it, then doesn’t that mean I’m trying to be God?

Simeon and Anna were two precious elderly people who had been waiting for the Messiah for many years. They had great faith, and they waited patiently, recognizing Jesus as the Messiah immediately when they saw Him and rejoicing because of Him.

Luke 2:21-39 (NLT) 

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.”So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 

I believe some of their wisdom and maturity was due to waiting on God. As we wait our faith and strength grow. We grow as believers.

Psalm 27:14 (NLT)

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) 

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

I pray we will learn the grace of waiting on God and grow in faith as we do. We must keep praying, trusting, and seeking God.

6. Distance? Is distance keeping you from the manger? Do you think God is too far away and doesn’t care? Or do you feel you have wandered too far to ever be able to come to God?

The Wise Men understood distance.

Matthew 2:1-11 (NLT) 

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.”

Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. “Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?” he asked them.

“In Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ “

Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The wise men who worshipped Jesus traveled very far to find Him. Nothing stopped them…in fact, they didn’t know for sure where they would find him, but God provided a way. They followed the star, and after briefly looking for Him at the palace, they found Him and worshipped Him giving Him gifts.

For us, that distance is much shorter, but not any easier to cross in our own strength. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Our sin causes a great chasm between us and God, and it is only through repentance for our sin and forgiveness through Jesus Christ that we can have a relationship with Him.

James 4:8 (NLT)

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

My prayer is that we all come to the manger to worship this Christmas. Although our first picture of Jesus is as a baby in a manger, it must not be our last. The Christ-child in the manger has been made into a beautiful Christmas scene, but we cannot leave him there. This tiny, helpless baby lived an amazing life, died for us, ascended to heaven, and will come back to this earth as King of kings. May we come to the feet of Jesus to worship daily and learn more of Him. Nothing is more important. Nothing brings meaning and new life but Christ Jesus.

Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Merry Christmas!

I am so thankful for you! I pray you have a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with the peace and joy of Jesus!

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