Cows in the Stable

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.
Luke 2:11-112 NKJV

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus! I linger in front of our nativity scene. The creche illustrates what transpired the day Jesus was born. I ponder what it might have been like to be present at this extraordinary event. I wonder if the animals sensed something sacred happening in their secular stable.

Jesus is, and always will be, first and foremost! However, I have enjoyed meditating upon the various animals during Advent. A donkey, a few tranquil sheep, the approaching camels, now a cow. Such a privilege for the animals to be included in welcoming Jesus.

Cows will be our final focus. Cattle are often a part of the nativity scene although they are never mentioned in the Christmas story. I think about cattle because of the Christmas carol Away in the Manger. The second verse begins, “The cattle are lowing the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”

Lowing is defined as a deep low sound characteristic of cows. Maybe their mooing was a soothing sound to the newborn baby in the manger.

Cattle are ruminating animals – meaning they chew their cud. For cows, “to chew the cud” means to turn food over and over in the stomach in order to digest the food. For humans, “to chew the cud” refers to turning thoughts over and over in our minds.

For cows, chewing the cud breaks down the complex properties of grass and grains. For us, chewing the cud breaks down the complex meanings of scripture to gain understanding. Chewing the cud allows us to fill our minds with spiritual truth in order to better understand it, apply it, and be transformed by it. Cows munch on pastureland. We taste and see that the Lord is good. (see Psalm 34:8)

Cattle ruminate – chew over again. We meditate – contemplate, question, reflect, think.

The Psalms provide us good guidelines for meditating. Psalm 77:12 proclaims, “I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” David declares in Psalm 145:5, “I will meditate on Your wonderful works.” He also says in Psalm 19:14, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Let us echo Psalm 104:34, “May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the LORD.

Paul gives us specific things to think about that will result in positive meditation. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Ponder is another word for meditate. According to Luke 2:19, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.So many things for Mary to think about! Let us take time to ponder the significance of Jesus being born among animals in a stable. Maybe we should chew the cud a little more. Let us learn from the animals how to welcome Him into our hearts.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus today! Meditate upon the meaning of Christmas.

Camels Approaching the Stable

I continue to examine our nativity scene looking closely at the animals. Each year as I set up our creche, I create particular groupings of people and animals. I place the donkey near Mary and Joseph. (After all, it was the donkey Mary rode while traveling to Bethlehem.) The sheep flock around the shepherds. (Sheep and shepherds belong together.) I nestle the camel with the Magi outside the actual creche. (They have not yet arrived on the scene.)

Although the camels and Magi were not present at Bethlehem’s manger, they are common figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations. They have an important part in our Christian tradition. Camels were part of the animal world surrounding Jesus’ birth.

The account of the Magi and their camels is found in Matthew 2:1-12. For approximately two years, the Magi rode their camels and followed a star that ultimately led them to Jesus in Bethlehem. Verses 9-11 says, “. . . they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

In Bible times, camels were a symbol of wealth. They transported treasures and riches. These particular camels carried Magi. Also referred to as Wise Men, the Magi were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They exhibited profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. These camels transported respected men and expensive gifts. Extraordinary animals for an extraordinary purpose.

Most camels are dromedary camels, characterized by a single hump. They are usually 5.9 to 6.6 feet tall and weigh between 990 and 1,320 pounds. While standing, they are majestic animals that demand attention. My eyes look up.

However, as the camels sit or lie down, my eyes look down. They kneel on their knobby knees and gradually lower their bodies. As a camel lowers itself on its knees, it reminds me of a person kneeling in prayer. Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” 

The purpose of the Magi’s journey was to worship the newborn king. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The camels and Magi journeyed together sharing a common purpose. Camels and Magi reflected a prominent status by appearance. However, both knelt and worshiped Jesus. Let’s find our place with the camels and Magi. As God’s people, let us fall on our knees to worship Him.

The camels were privileged to carry great men on their backs and bring them into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They are an example for our prayer lives. As intercessors, we carry people to the Lord in prayer. Paul says in I Timothy 2:1-3,I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.Ephesians 6:18 is also a significant verse. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Who do you need to bring before the Lord in prayer today? Kneel before Him and pour out your heart in prayer and praise.

The camels were coming. Are you coming? It was a long journey for the camels to finally kneel before Jesus. Currently, we are sharing an Advent journey. It will be our privilege to kneel before Jesus and honor His birth in another week. However, our pilgrimage will not end on December 25. Our life’s goal should be to draw closer to Jesus each and every day. Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger for a greater purpose than living on earth for 33 ½ years. He was born to die for our sins so we could be born again. Our destination in eternal life with Jesus.

Sheep in the Stable

Today we will continue our study of the animals surrounding Jesus at His birth. We know the characters. Let’s get to know the animals better. We may discover that we have personality traits similar to the characteristics of the animals.

Luke 2:7 says, “And she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. People in Bethlehem did not provide a place where Jesus could be born. However, the animals welcomed Him into their shelter. It may have been a little stinky but I don’t think that bothered Jesus.

As I gaze upon our nativity scene, I pick up a little lamb. I also pick up the figure of baby Jesus, the Lamb of God.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaims, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John not only gave Jesus a title but defined His purpose. Jesus was born, probably among lambs, in order to provide salvation for people. He would die for the salvation of the people who would not provide Him a warm, clean place to be born. I think Jesus, as the Lamb of God, would have been very comfortable among some four-legged creatures who were snuggled down for the night in a cozy barn.

The lambs and sheep surrounding Jesus at His birth, symbolize us. Jesus came to earth and was born in a stable to offer us eternal life. We cannot forget the words of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.We need the Lamb of God.

Sheep are rather dumb animals. No other livestock requires more handling and detailed direction than sheep. We will have to admit that we can act and react in some not so brilliant ways. At times, we can be stubborn and dumb like sheep. If we had lived over 2000 years ago, we may have been like the innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph. Today, do we have room in our hearts for Him?

Isiah 56:3 states, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.We are sheep. Jesus is the Lamb who came for His sheep. I Peter 1:19 says we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Jesus says in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

If we are part of the Lord’s sheep fold, we can personalize Psalm 23. We are privileged to have the Lord be our Shepherd, We can be confident that we shall not want for provision. We know we will lie down in green pastures and be led by still waters. The Lord assures us He will restore our souls and guide us in paths of righteousness. He does it for His name’s sake. Even though we may walk through valleys and shadows, we are told that we do not need to fear evil because He promises to be with us. He prepares us a table even if we are surrounded by enemies. He will anoint our heads with oil. Our cups will overflow. We have the blessing of knowing goodness. Mercy will be available  and we will always dwell in the house of the Lord.

I now place a couple of little lamb figures in our nativity scene. I put one close to the feet of Jesus. This little lamb represents those of us who have a personal relationship with Jesus. We desire to sit at His feet and learn from Him. We want to hear His voice and follow Him as our Shepherd. I place another lamb further back in the stable. This one may symbolize the one lost sheep that Jesus talks about in the parable of the lost sheep. (see Matthew 18:10-14) Jesus desires to bring this little lamb into His fold.

During this Advent season, I encourage you to carefully examine your life and determine your location in the manger scene. Do you truly believe He is the Lamb of God? Is He your Shepherd? Do you hear His voice? Have you invited Him to be born in your heart? Is there room in your life’s inn for Him?

 

A Donkey in the Stable

Advent has begun. It is time for me to get out Christmas decorations. The first thing I set up is our nativity scene. I lovingly hold each figure as I place it in the stable. Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, take center stage. Rightfully so. However, my attention is drawn to the animals.

No scripture mentions the animals being in the barn. However, we know Jesus was born in a stable. A stable was the home of animals. They had to have been there! It was the animals who were willing to share their abode with Jesus because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn.

Luke 2:7 NKJV says, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

During the coming weeks of Advent, we will carefully look at the various animals who surrounded Jesus at His birth. We will think about the nature of each animal and meditate upon their symbolism.

Our first focus is upon the donkey. After all, it was a donkey that brought the star character to the scene. While Jesus was still being cradled in his mother’s womb, he traveled upon a donkey to where he would be born. Without the donkey, there would not have been a baby born in Bethlehem’s manger. There would not have been a reason for a star to shine above the stable. It all depended upon the donkey. This animal was the mode of transportation for the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in Micah 5:2. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

A donkey is a cross between horse and mule. It is a lowly animal. Mary and Joseph were also of lowly status. In the Magnificat, Mary described herself as being in the humble state of a servant. (Luke 1:48) Joseph was a carpenter. He was not wealthy nor a man of political status. When people learned that Mary was pregnant and unwed, she was looked down upon.

Lowliness is humility. On two occasions, Jesus and a donkey shared humility. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He traveled to Bethlehem upon a donkey while still in Mary’s womb. Jesus died in Jerusalem. He arrived in Jerusalem riding upon a donkey where He was tried and crucified.

Philippians 2:5-11 describes the mind of Christ exhibited by Jesus while He lived on earth. Verses 7-8 say, “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.

I believe the lowly donkey sets an example for us.
Proverbs 16:19 declares, “It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Philippians 2:3-4 encourages us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (my emphasis)

I place the donkey near Mary, Joseph and Jesus in our nativity scene. As a lowly animal, the donkey symbolically reminds me of humility. Colossians 3:12 is a good scripture for us to strive to fulfill during this season of preparation for Christmas. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.