Meditating on the Manger

Meditating on the Manger

Tucked in the pages of our hymnal is a marvelously profound hymnic meditation on the manger of Jesus Christ written by the 17th century Lutheran theologian Paul Gerhardt. It merits our notice. But before you read it, resolve to read it SLOWLY. Thoughtful poetry should be enjoyed like red wine or quality coffee. Don’t gulp. Sip and savor and then swallow joyfully.   
Gerhardt begins,

O Jesus Christ, Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord, Doth lie the Word Made flesh for us;
here-in Thy grace forth shineth.

Gerhardt sees the significance of Jesus’ incarnation, for where Jesus is, there is paradise. Further, he sees in the manger the Word of God made flesh for us and the grace of God shining for us. And because he sees the startling implications of Christ’s manger, he finds rest for his soul as he reclines his soul before it. 


He whom the sea And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou God’s own Son, With us are one,
Dost join us and our children in our weakness.

As he reclines before the manger, he considers who lies within it. It is none other than God’s Son, the One whom the sea and wind obey! And yet this One comes in weakness and meekness to serve us sinners. He has taken on our flesh and has become one with us. But He comes for more. 


Thy light and grace Our guilt efface,
Thy heavenly riches all our loss retrieving.
Immanuel, Thy birth doth quell
The power of hell and Satan’s bold deceiving.


Consider Gerhardt’s words! The light and grace radiating from Jesus’ manger efface (wipe away) our guilt! And who among us does not daily battle guilt over sin? Jesus’ heavenly riches restore all that was lost through Adam’s sin – life, fellowship with God, peace, and wholeness. Jesus retrieves it for us and restores our loss. Further, this child in the manger – Immanuel, God with us! – His birth quells (quiets and stills) the power of hell and the deceptive tongue of Satan. For once God plays His hand, what power does hell have, what lie of Satan can remain unexposed? 

Thou Christian heart, Who-e’er thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God’s own Child, In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee!


Now Gerhardt turns to us who have joined him in his meditation as he encourages us to be of good cheer and unmoved by sorrow. For as Gerhardt directs our gaze to the Christ child, God’s child has, in mercy, joined us to Himself. How greatly God must love us! It’s as if he’s saying, “Look, look who’s in this manger! This is God’s Son. He has come in our flesh. He has come to redeem us. He has come to reconcile us to God. How great must God’s love be for us!”

Remember thou What glory now
The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.
The angel host Can never boast
Of greater glory, greater bliss or gladness.


Here Gerhardt reminds us of the reality of our earthly sadness. Tears, brokenness, disappointment, and grief remain. Jesus’ manger doesn’t remove them; it does, however, prepare us to face them. For in the manger we see God’s glory enfleshed. Sorrow, sadness, grief, and pain will end. This is why Christ took on flesh, not only to bear our sin and sorrow, but to bear them away. The angels in heaven can’t boast of such Divine action. They may look upon the manger in awe and wonder, but not with the same deep appreciation. With this deep appreciation, Gerhardt invites us to keep Christ as our true treasure:  

The world may hold Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure.


The world boasts of its great wealth, but Gerhardt resolves even as he invites us to see and keep Christ as our true and lasting treasure. To Him we are called to hold fast until God honors us with the crown of life. Then earth’s treasures will be exposed as frauds, as false infinites and substitute sacreds. Then Jesus will be revealed as the great treasure of the Church. Our confidence and trust in Him will be vindicated as He honors His saints with the crown of eternal life. – Pastor Conner

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