And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. –Luke 2:7
At one point I was asked why we receive the Lord’s Supper during our Christmas services. This dear person felt it was a little strange for a service celebrating the birth of Jesus to transition into receiving this baby’s body and blood. And I get it—the juxtaposition is a bit jarring.
Christmas is a celebration of life. The very Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). We sing songs full of hope and joy! We exchange gifts with those we love in remembrance of God giving us the gift of Himself in the person of Jesus. We have nativities set up with angels, Mary, Joseph, humble shepherds, and wise travelers all gathered around this infant-God lying in a manger. That’s right—in a manger.
For those who may not know; a manger is a feeding trough. It comes from the Latin word “manducare” meaning “to eat.” And the town where this particular manger was located was Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.” Jesus later refers to himself by saying, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) and “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41).
So yes, the Creator of all things makes Himself lowly, to the point of being placed in a manger where dirty creatures come to eat.
They do not come to prepare a meal, but rather to receive what has been prepared for them. They come there to be fed. The poor shepherds are there too. And hosts of angels are there. All gathered around the humblest of tables where the Bread of Life, come down from heaven, has been laid out.
The same body that will be broken in crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins is first laid in a manger. The Holy God of all that is, laying in a wooden box like a meal for swine. A feast for sinners. A banquet for beggars. The image is striking and admittedly scandalous.
People were utterly scandalized when Jesus later said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever” (John 6:52-58). Thankfully He didn’t misspeak. He was making us a promise—a promise that has been hinted at since that very first Christmas night. A promise on display in each nativity scene we set up. And it’s a promise He makes good on every time we receive His Supper.
The truth is everything about Jesus’ birth quietly points to the extraordinary and humble way He intends to keep coming to us. In a very real way, every time we receive the Lord’s Supper we are experiencing Christmas all over again. The Word became flesh for us, this bread from heaven gifting Himself to us sinners again and again. He is the reason why we keep the “mass” in Christmas.
Eat, drink, be forgiven—and Merry Christmas!
Daniel is the Director of Christ Hold Fast, an author, church and conference speaker, co-host of the podcasts 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament and leader of the interactive online Bible Study For Normies. He has served as a church planter, pastor and worship leader and currently lives in Bentonville Arkansas with his wife Jessica and daughter Anna.