Our nativity scenes have sterilized the manger. Cartoon sheep and glow in the dark figures. I appreciate the sentiment. But I’m afraid these images have inoculated us against the shock that the shepherds must have experienced when they first heard that the Savior would be placed in an animal’s feeding trough. Jesus wasn't born in palace but a stable - a place that smelled like animals lived there.
Has it ever crossed your mind why Jesus would be placed a manger?
The angel said it was a sign. ("This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:12) And when the Bible using the term, sign, it carries the idea of significance. What would be the significance of the manger to these shepherds? Historians of the 1st Century say that Jesus was born in a cave; which makes sense because in those days sheep, and other animals, were often sheltered in caves. No matter what, it is pretty clear that Jesus was born in an area meant for sheep and other livestock.
Now consider this: Bethlehem at that time was the center of raising sacrificial lambs for the Temple in nearby Jerusalem. Therefore at least some of the sheep that these shepherds would raise, were considered korban, that is, they were set aside from birth as perfect, sacrificial lambs.
Trace with me, for a moment the life of one of these Bethlehem lambs:
· Born in a lamb’s cave,
· fed at a manger,
· perfect and without blemish
· led by its shepherd to Jerusalem
· where it would shed its blood for the sins of the God’s people
Maybe the manger was a sign. Where else would the Lamb of God be born?