Beautiful Irony in the Manger

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What a striking scene Luke captures with his pen. It’s filled with irony and theological beauty. There is Mary, the mother of Jesus, wrapping up the second person of the Trinity in swaddling clothes.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

The Son of God became the son of a virgin. The Creator comes to dwell among his creation. The one who swaddled the stars with darkness (Job 38:9) is now clothed in cloth as a baby. Christ, the Lord God, becomes a man and dwells among us (John 1:14).

We cannot stare long at the manger before it begins to change. Informed by the rest of Scripture, we begin to see the looming shadow of the cross emerge upon it. Jesus was born to die (Matt. 1:21). We see the baby here, swaddled in rags, but in due time he will be clothed in the rags of my demerit, my sin (Is. 64:6; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21). 

He did this so that we could be vested with his infinite merit (Rom. 4:4-5; 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus who was wrapped in the garments of humility dresses his children in the merits of his righteousness. This Jesus will, by his perfect obedience, earn the everlasting righteousness that will be credited to people like me and you.

This is one reason I love the Christmas season. It forces me to be reminded again of the depth of Christ’s condescension for helpless people like me. The depth of his humility is infinite, because he stepped down from his heaven’s throne; he is God. But also, he stepped down to serve one like me, one who rang up an eternal debt with an infinite price tag. And Christ, with his infinite value, earned for sinners this everlasting righteousness.  

Stare at the manger and marvel. The Father looks upon Christ saying, This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased (Matt. 3:17). And we respond, This is my beloved Savior with whom I am well pleased!

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