Scott Bryant

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The Way in A Manger

This past Sunday our children sang the familiar Christmas song “Away In A Manger.” I would like to take a moment to encourage you to think about the title and the lyrics for this long a little more closely as we continue to journey toward Christmas morning.

Here’s one way of singing that song that might be a bit more accurate to our American lifestyle. It’s called “Away WITH the Manger”.  Be sure to sing the words below, don’t just read them.

Away with the manger

It’s too big a threat

I’d rather have pleasure and rack up my debt

I’m king of my kingdom

And so I won’t bow

Before any manger

I’m busy just now.

 

Okay, you’re doing great. Sing a little louder now as you move into verse two:

Away with the manger

I’m already king.

There’s no need for a Savior

Yes that’s why I sing.

I’m really quite happy

With my little life.

If a King’s in the manger

That would cause too much strife.

 

Sadly, these lyrics are often more accurate in describing our heart as we approach the manger of baby Jesus. We like to keep Him in that manger. Cute, innocent, and harmless. But He isn’t harmless. He represents a significant threat to our kingdom.  The truth is that our sin nature is just as provoked by the manger as Herod’s was. Matthew 2:16 tells us that he was furious and “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” He simply externalized what we often internalize. We want to be king, and we will take drastic steps to protect our kingdom. Since most of us don’t have a throne to wield like Herod, we wield whatever we have at our disposal to secure our happiness. Our money, our talent, our friends, and maybe even our family. We are drawn to use others for our benefit as we silently sing, “Away WITH the Manger.”

As I share those challenging words, please know I am first taking them to heart myself. On my life’s journey, I have discovered that I am more and more tempted to grasp for my kingdom, instead of submitting to His with each year that passes.

So, let’s relook at that song again and rename it to the more biblically-accurate title of “The Way in a Manger”. That’s why the manger is so threatening to mankind. That little baby came with a very offensive name, especially to us post-modern, relativistic Americans who think that we can plot our way to heaven and happiness.

This baby was The Son of God who would grow up and humbly and yet boldly refer to His own name. We read this powerful name in John 14:6:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

The next time you sing that familiar song, my prayer is that you will take a moment to examine your heart and life. For everything and everyone in the Nativity Story gives a very loud message that we could easily miss.

“You will not find the manger of a Humble King if you are not a humble subject.”

If we are willing to humbly kneel before the Manger of our Humble King, there is a priceless gift that awaits.

There is mercy in the manger for those who are humble and fear God.

Yet mercy makes no sense if there is no justice. Why would I care about receiving mercy, if I don’t believe that I’m guilty and deserve an eternal sentence of death. That’s why we must first see that there is justice in His Manger too. His perfect justice that must bring down our pride that believes we know the way better that God himself. Until we encounter His Justice, we will not value His Mercy.

For The Way truly does “rule world with truth and grace.” We can either come under His Rule, or spend our life trying to make up our own. The Way is in a manger. Let’s humbly let Him be The Way and adjust our entire life to however He leads.

The Way IN the Manger is Humble.  The Way TO the Manger is Humble.  So, the question this Christmas is, “Have we found The Way In the Manger?  Or will we keep singing with our life, “Away with the Manger.” Praise God for His Mercy that is new every morning, especially Christmas morning.

It's NOW A Wonderful Life

Ok, I must admit that of all the Christmas movies my children enjoying watching each year, there’s one nostalgic film that is hard for me to sit through. Not because it’s a poorly made movie. It’s very well done and has a great story line with a great cast. The movie just gets a little too close to home for me, as it follows a character who has the same tendency I do, and just maybe you do as well.

The famous film is called “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and it follows a man name George Bailey as he clearly is struggling to believe that his life is indeed wonderful. He’s looking back at his life and all the struggles that have happened and is about ready to end it all. The rest of the movie follows an angel named Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, as he is assigned to help George see life differently. As George goes on this journey with Clarence, he begins to see all the past challenges and heartache through a very different lens. By the end of the movie, he can see his present situation for what it is. That life is indeed wonderful.

Instead of jumping off the bridge and ending his life, he instead runs back to his family and friends with a renewed enthusiasm. The movie concludes with George finding a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and reading this inscription from his guarding angel: "Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence." A bell on the Christmas tree rings, and his daughter, remembers aloud that it means an angel has just earned his wings. George realizes that he has had a wonderful life and the movie comes to a wonderful end.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, while this might make a great holiday film, this is not what makes our life wonderful. We have been given so much more than a copy of Tom Sawyer and a bumbling guardian angel. As you move into this month of Christmas celebration, let me remind you what enables us to truly believe that “It’s A Wonderful Life”!

Let’s start with Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1. As they discovered from a true angel sent from God, that “It’s NOW a wonderful life, and His name would be John!” And their son would have the amazing challenge and privilege of preparing the way for The Most Wonderful Life!

The angel Gabriel gave these fascinating facts about the wonderful life that John would be born into:

  • He will be a joy and delight to you as his parents
  • Many will rejoice because of his birth
    • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth
    • He will bring back many Israelites to the Lord
    • He will turn the hearts of fathers
    • He will turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous

The people of the 1st century were given the same message that we are given in the 21st century by the wonderful life of John. If we can’t accept John’s message of repentance, then our heart won’t be ready for the message of Jesus. John would give his life passionately challenging the people of that time with a message we need to hear today:  “Repent from trying to be king, so you can receive THE King!

Then we see an angel come and give the life-altering message to Joseph and Mary that “It’s NOW a wonderful Life…. And His name would be Jesus!

For Mary the message was literally, “It’s NOW a wonderful life…He’s in your womb!” Can you imagine that ladies? And then Joseph was given a message, “It’s NOW a Wonderful Life, but it’s not your son, it’s God’s Son!” His role as an earthly father would be to care for The Wonderful Life of Jesus Himself! A boy that wasn’t from his flesh, but one that would save his very soul.

A life that would grow up to give His Wonderful Life for ours so we wouldn’t have to jump off the bridge of depression and be destroyed by the challenges of earthly life today. To instead have our life forever changed as we encounter The Most Wonderful Life of Jesus.

The Shepherds soon discovered “It’s NOW a wonderful life…He is Christ the Lord! They were visited not by just one angel, but by a heavenly host of them singing the wonderful message: “A Savior has brought eternal peace for all people!

That’s why we can journey through our life, no matter how challenging the circumstances we might face today. Let me leave you with just three things to remember this month!

It’s Now A Wonderful Life because:

  • An Eternal King came to earth!
  • An eternal kingdom is now established!
  • An eternal kingdom mindset can now provide us with endless joy!

Don’t give into the proud mindset of our day that says, “When life doesn’t feel good, God must not be good!” Instead, follow in the steps of the humble servant Mary who in essence said, “God alone is good, even when life doesn’t feel good!”

IT’s Now a Wonderful Life…When I learn to see His eternal promises as more precious than any earthly pleasure! As we build our life on that Truth, our eyes will be opened, and our courage will be renewed to see that “It truly is a Wonderful Life- and His Name is Jesus! 

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