The Saviour In The Manger
Commercialism has cheapened the birth of Christ into a glittered greeting card image of Mary, Joseph, and the wise men gathered together in a warm glow around a baby in a manger. And that’s where the world wants to keep Him—abandoned in the nativity scene. But the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ was so much more.
To fully understand it, you have to go back before the fall, when God made man in His own image. No human eye saw the LORD God form Adam from the dust of the ground, or breathe into his nostrils the breath of life, yet there were witnesses.
In Genesis we read, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This was part of a divine consultation between the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. And the image, the likeness, that God spoke of had to do with His nature, which includes His holiness, His righteousness, His truth, His wisdom, and His love—all of which Adam inhaled as a living soul.
At the root, Adam’s name meant “the brilliant one,” suitable for one who reflected the radiant light and glory of his Creator so much so that it clothed him. In His image, Adam communed with God, spirit to Spirit.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).
It was the intention of God, my husband notes, that the offspring of Adam and Eve would be “sons of God” and spiritually inherit His nature of righteousness. But everything changed that day in the garden. Weakened by sin, Adam fell, and when he did, God’s image and likeness in him shattered.
His brilliance darkened, and he saw that he was naked. Hiding from God and horrified, Adam realized that he could no longer commune with God in spirit because spiritually, he died. All that remained of Adam was his physical body—the weakest part of his being—and his soul, now lost.
From that point on, he would turn from God to self and be ruled by the sin that enslaved him. Instead of seeing God, hearing God, and feeling the presence of God, Adam, and all of his descendants, were reduced in their fallen state to rely on their physical senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.
The Bible says, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Gen. 4:1).
Cain started his life spiritually dead. He was born in the image and likeness of Adam, which meant spiritually and physically, Cain “looked like” Adam.
But thank God for His plan of redemption.
Matthew Henry said, “The three persons of the sacred Trinity at first concurred in counsel and operation in forming man, as afterwards in his recovery from the fall.”
In His foreknowledge, God knew that man would fall and that the only way to redeem him would be through the Second Adam—Jesus Christ. “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Pet. 1:20).
In other words, God sent His Son to the human race in a way that we, in our fallen state, could physically see God, hear God, and feel His presence.
The Father sent His Son—a bridge of promise that spans from before the foundation of the world to the babe born in Bethlehem. But what of the days and hours before the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her, “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”?
The Rev. C.H. Spurgeon offers us this picture of possibility in a sermon he delivered on Dec. 23, 1855. He said, in part:
Did you never see the depth of love there was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped His Son for the great enterprise of mercy? There had been a sad day in heaven once before, when Satan fell, and dragged with him a third of the stars of heaven, and when the Son of God launching from his great right hand the omnipotent thunders, dashed the rebellious crew to the pit of perdition; but if we could conceive a grief in heaven, that must have been a sadder day, when the Son of the Most High left his Father’s bosom, where he had lain from before all worlds. “Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!”
Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes; He laid aside his crown; he said, “My Father, I am Lord over all, blessed forever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.” He strips himself of his bright vest of glory. “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such a men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been!
And next, can you picture the dismissal? The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors: when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and let the King of glory through!” Oh! me thinks the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descended with him; and when His spirit entered into flesh and He became a babe, He was attended by that mighty host of angels, who, after they had been with Him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely, laid on his mother’s breast, in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that He was born king of the Jews.”
With that in mind, consider this truth from Luke, “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:10-14).
When the shepherds came, they saw with their own eyes the only begotten of the Father, the Son of God—already a King, already a Saviour—and He was beautiful. Wise men from the east presented gifts to Jesus, the true image of God. In the temple, Simeon looked at the Christ child and saw in His face, salvation. And later, when John the Baptist looked upon Jesus walking, he said “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
John said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
When Jesus “became flesh,” my husband notes, His glory returned to the human family the image of God for the purpose of redemption. But the incarnation of Christ would have no meaning without the Cross. It is only through faith in Christ and what He did at the Cross that we can regain all that Adam lost at the fall—including the ability to make men sons of God, in the image of Christ, who is the image of God.
Jesus Christ is the true image of God, which means that God’s nature—His holiness, His righteousness, His truth, His wisdom, and His love—is in Christ.
Paul said, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30).
When a person believes in his heart and confesses to the Father that Jesus is Lord, the Spirit of God enters into his body and mind, regenerates his spirit, and he is born again—the Trinity once again operating in perfect unity to form a new man.
Once in Christ, man—any man—becomes a new creature, made in the image and likeness of God. That means when God the Father looks on a baby believer, He sees His only begotten Son—His righteousness, His holiness, and His love tucked in a manger before the foundation of the world—already a King, already a Saviour—surrounded by a heavenly host of angels ready to rejoice and tell of the good tidings of great joy.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”