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Unbelievably Good News

You’ll see a lot of manger scenes this Christmas—outside churches, on mantlepieces, in advertising. But it’s the live scenes, complete with real actors, sheep and hay that always make me stop and think.

On one level, the manger scene is the central image of Christmas in exactly the way you’d expect. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, and it happened in a manger in Bethlehem.

But another level, the manger is exactly what you wouldn’t expect. This is the Messiah long prophesied by Almighty God “by whom and for whom” the world was created. He is the savior of the world.

So why does God come to poor, low-born parents, as a vulnerable baby literally left out in the cold? Why is He born among the straw and the stench of livestock?

This is the gritty, outrageous part of Jesus “Emmanuel,” or God with us. From His birth in a manger to His death on the cross, Christ overturns our human understanding about what constitutes God’s plan, God’s will and God’s glory.

For me, this is hope. Salvation doesn’t come from our birth right in the right family. It doesn’t come from human effort or from connecting the dots with human intelligence. From first to last, God reveals himself as God by the power of God.

Jesus’ manger scene is meant to soften our minds and our hearts for the preposterous truth that He is the son of God and that all who believe in Him will be saved. His grace overturns God’s holy judgment against sinful mankind.

His very humanity is meant to turn everything we think know about God on its head. The God who dwells outside this world broke into it. He brings mercy and not judgment. He takes the sin punishment on Himself and lets the guilty go free. Jesus’s victory comes in defeat. His life comes to us through His death.

The manger scene shouts to the nations across the generations, “This Jesus is unbelievably good news! And if you can believe it, then there is eternal hope!”

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