Making the Manger Personal

Last September, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with a colleague, work remotely, and research my next novel. During one of our day-tripping adventures, we visited a place called Civita di Bagnoregio, a place sometimes called “the dying town.” This city rests atop a hill that is slowly eroding, and the place itself is breathtaking.

As my friend Maria and I explored the city, I suddenly stopped short. There, to my right, were the remains of a manger.

A manger. The scene seemed taken right out of a nativity story set in Bethlehem, and yet here we were in Italy. As I soaked in the moment, a few realizations struck me. Though perhaps I’d already known them, I hadn’t taken them to heart before. Maybe you can relate.

The manger was a common place chosen for an anything-but-common Christ.

Jesus could have been born anywhere else. People expected that the Messiah would come as king and break Rome’s oppression. They expected a palatial birth with pomp and circumstance. As a result, they couldn’t even recognize His birth in a stable, among animals and dirt, to a simple girl and her carpenter-husband.

I get caught up in my expectations sometimes, too. I expect God to provide a certain way, and when He doesn’t, I feel confused and frustrated. Yet God’s uncommon methods are the very means He uses to accomplish His will back then and today.

The manger stands as a challenge for simplicity and personal humility.

For introverts like me, Christmastime can overwhelm the senses with programs, white-elephant gift exchanges, Sunday school parties, special services, shopping, and everything that we’ve come to expect. Granted, those things may all have a time and place, but they often distract from the main reason we celebrate.

When I looked at the manger, all I saw was a rickety feeding trough that did double-duty as the Messiah’s crib. Its bare simplicity reminded me what a humble birthplace Christ accepted. It reminded me of these verses from Philippians where the Apostle Paul challenged his writers to adopt the mindset of Christ:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV).

Is that mind in me? Is it in you? If I’m honest, it often isn’t. I prefer things my way, on my schedule, for my convenience. Yet Jesus exercised humility even though He was equal to God! How much more should humility characterize my thoughts and actions?

Back in Italy that day, I felt reluctant to leave this manger-like scene. However, I don’t have to relegate the manger to once-a-year Christmas stories and pageants. I can strive to apply the truths it represents every day of the year. So can you.

May you experience the joy of God’s unexpected blessings this Christmas and always!

~Kristen

Thanks to DailyPS.com for hosting this week’s post on their blog. 

 

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Making the Manger Personal – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Theme for 2018: Wait and See

Like many of you, each year I write goals with the understanding that God can shape and change them however He sees best. For the last few years, I’ve also chosen a word that I hope will capture my prayers and dreams for the New Year.

Lately, God’s been showing me that I need to lay aside my expectations and embrace the reality that His plans may be different than I imagined. And that’s okay. In fact, His ways are far better.

However, I still struggle sometimes. “Lord, but I thought …” or “But isn’t this a good expectation?” Yet I imagine I’m somewhat like Job who thought he had the right to ask God a question when he didn’t have the faintest idea what was really going on.

That’s why I’ve chosen a theme, not just a word, for 2018: Wait and see. I want to let go of my expectations and let God have His own way in my life. Sure, I still have goals I’m working toward, but I’m trying to hold loosely onto them. For you visual friends, the mental image that goes along with this theme is an open hand. I want God to give or take away whatever He sees fit.

In other words, I need to desire, not any specific outcome, but simply the Lord Himself. My expectation needs to be from Him, because at the end of the day, only He can satisfy.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7 NKJV)

I love the start of a new year because it holds so many possibilities. In 2018, let’s not get wrapped up in our own agendas. Let’s be willing for God to surprise us with His best.

Wait and see.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Be willing for God to surprise you with His best – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

New Year’s Theme: Wait and See – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)