This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Image: A woman holds a cup of tea and reads her Bible. Black text on a green background reads, “Weekly Devotion: His Encouragement- Words from Scripture to Strengthen Your Soul.”
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
I’m Always Hungry
The joke throughout the Christmas season has been that I’m always hungry. I can’t leave my hands off the Christmas cookies. I have this insatiable hunger within me for more cookies. (CLICK HEREto read about how my mischievous cat almost caused a Christmas cookie disaster)
What are you hungry for this Christmas? What will satisfy you? It is my prayer this Christmas, and always, that we will have MORE- more of all the good things in this life, more peace, more hope, more joy, more love, and especially, MORE JESUS.
It can be hard for us to imagine what the first Christmas was like. How could it be so humble and yet so miraculous?
The Story of the First Live Nativity
Throughout the history of Christianity, people have worked to imagine what it would have been like to be present on the first Christmas. One person who found it challenging to the scene was St. Francis of Assisi. In 1223, St. Francis was traveling in Italy when he stopped at the town of Greccio. The caves in Greccio reminded him of the countryside of Bethlehem. It was about two weeks before Christmas, and Francis had a moment of divine inspiration. He asked a friend to go and get a manger, an ox, a donkey, and some hay, so that they could set up a live nativity. In this way, he hoped to be able to imagine what the very first Christmas was like. St. Francis’s idea caught fire, and soon many people got involved. Local friars as well as farmers from the surrounding town came to be part of the event.
On Christmas Day, friars and local townspeople came together to create the very first live nativity scene. They brought flowers and torches. There was a manger full of hay, an ox, and a donkey. It was such a holy moment that the priest was moved to celebrate the Eucharist over the manger, “showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist (Admirabile signum, 1 December, 2019).”
Jesus is Bread for the World
Baby Jesus was laid in a manger… and a manger holds food for sheep!
We are all sheep… and Jesus came to be the Good Shepherd!
On Christmas Eve, we welcome baby Jesus, and Jesus welcomes us home!
“Coming into this world, the Son of God was laid in the place where animals feed. Hay became the first bed of the One who would reveal himself as ‘the bread come down from heaven’ (John 5:41) (ibid).” St. Augustine sums up this point beautifully when he writes, “laid in a manger, he became our food (ibid).”
We have all sinned. We have all made mistakes. We all need Jesus. All we like sheep have gone astray. Jesus came to feed the hungry of soul and the hungry of heart. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
Here is another fun fact, did you know that Bethlehem, the name of the town where Jesus was born, means “town of bread,” in Hebrew? Sheep eat out of a manger. Jesus feeds our hungry souls.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Our God is truly a God of Surprises. God can change a barn the nursery for a king and a cross into an empty tomb! As any parent will tell you, the birth of a new child will change your life. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, who changed the world!
God made a cattle trough into a cradle for the Messiah who would feed the whole world. Only Jesus can satisfy our hunger. Only he can fill our insatiable longing.
I think it is truly wonderful that, besides Joseph and Mary, the first people to see the baby Jesus who were working in the fields. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are all sheep. We are all special to Christ, and we all need the Good Shepherd to guide us home.
Jesus is the greatest gift of all. Happy Birthday Jesus!
From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!