A Journey to the Manger, Pt. 1

A Journey to the Manger, Pt. 1

Study Guide, December 3, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

And so, December begins our journey to Christmas. It’s a journey filled with planning, parties, presents, but most important, the worship of the Christ who left the throne of Heaven to appear in a manger as Jesus. The creation of the Incarnation outshines the brightest stars and out-wonders the greatest wonders. So no wonder that we wonder as we wander out under the sky. Those are part of the words of that reflective Christmas Carol, remember? “I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. For poor on’ry people like you and like I…I wonder as I wander out under the sky.” By the way, that’s one part we don’t have to wonder about…the part about the ‘poor on’ry’ people like you and like I’…although we would say ‘like you and like me’, but then it wouldn’t rhyme with ‘sky’. But ‘on’ry’…or ‘ornery’ as we would say today. ‘Ornery means: ‘Having a difficult or contrary disposition’.

So, when it comes to what God was facing in why there even had to be a ‘Christmas’, ‘ornery’ is putting it lightly, to say the least. Remember, Rom 5:6-10 describes us all as more than ornery as to our spiritual condition before our spiritual re-birth. Note: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” NASU

So, before we were Born Again, we were ‘ungodly, unrighteous, sinners, and enemies’ of the holy moral character and righteous nature of God. ‘Ornery’? Oh yeah! But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet ungodly, unrighteous, sinners, and enemies (and yes, ornery) we were reconciled to God through the death of Jesus, the Christ!

So here’s the deal…the reason there had to be a Christmas is because there had to be a Cross. And the reason there had to be a Cross was because of Rom. 5:6-10. But for Jesus, it was a long journey for both. So let’s explore.

Often when we describe Creation we use the terms ‘Ex Nihilo’. It has been described this way: “Ex nihilo is Latin for “from nothing.” The term creation ex nihilo refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment, there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from preexisting building blocks. He started from scratch. The Bible never expressly states that God made everything from nothing, but it is implied. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Scholars take this to mean that the universe came into existence by divine command and was not assembled from preexisting matter or energy. Things that are visible do not owe their existence to anything visible.
Humans can be very creative, but we cannot create ‘ex nihilo’. Strictly speaking, we cannot create; we can only synthesize. We require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics that we are all familiar with. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can be converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural. The term creation ex nihilo refers to the supernatural event that was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something (everything) from nothing.”

All right, and yet, created from ‘nothing’ in terms of the physical, that is, because even when there was nothing there still was something! That sounds interesting, right? When there was nothing there was still something, because when it comes to the spiritual realm or the spiritual dimension, the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is eternal, for our God has always existed…long before the creation of ‘Matter’ and of even ‘Time’. Factor that into the picture of Jesus in the manger…that before Jesus arrived in Bethlehem as the Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, He had always been and forever will be! That’s fun for your brain, right? And the picture gets even fuller when you fill it in with who else was there with God even before the creation of the physical universe…Angels!

Now, as to when Angels were created exactly, we just have to go with the implications we find revealed in the Scriptures. Notice: “Trying to determine when God created the angels is somewhat tricky because anything God did “before the foundation of the world” puts the event outside of time itself. Time and space are characteristics of our world, not God’s. We do know that God created the angels before He created the physical universe. The book of Job describes the angels worshiping God as He was creating the world: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
Then, if we consider the function of angels, we might conclude that God created the angels just prior to the creation of mankind because one of their duties is to be ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). We also know they existed prior to the garden of Eden, because Satan, who was formerly the angel Lucifer, was already present in the garden in his fallen state. However, because another function of angels is to worship God around His throne (Revelation 5:11-14), they may have been in existence a long, long time…long before God created the world, worshiping Him and serving Him.2
So the Spiritual world was alive and thriving long before God spoke the words,
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Gen 1:26 KJV Now, we know that God didn’t speak with a King James accent, but still, ‘creepeth’ does have a great sound to it, don’t you think? Like, “Behold, a spider creepeth across the floor!” Works for me!

But again, the journey to the manger began even before the beginning of Man! Even before the Fall of Man God had made a plan to redeem fallen Man. Notice: Acts 2:22-24- “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” NASU

Amazing, yes? Sometime in eternity past a plan was made within the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the redemption of man. But that redemption would require a Cross, and the only one that could pay the redemption price would have to be God Himself, the Christ, the Son of God. Heb 2:17- “Jesus had to be made like us, His brothers and sisters, in every way. He became like people so that He could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then He could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins.” ERV And in 1 Peter 1:18-20- “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days.” NLT

So when did Christmas begin…not the holiday tradition, but the plan that would provide for the need for the birth of the Christ child? ‘Long before the world began’ is when the plan began. That’s a long journey to the manger for sure! But not only did God make the plan before the world began, He also made a decision to become part of the plan by becoming a man Himself, for along with the creation of man would have to come the Incarnation of Himself…the creation of the one and only God and Man…Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine the Angels surprise over that decision? As in, “Lord, you’re going to do what??? You’re going to create a human body for your human family, and then You’re going to also create one for Yourself?” Now the Bible doesn’t say that the Angels said that, but since it does say that the Angels long to look into or are fascinated by everything that has to do with the salvation of human beings, we then do know that they were and are still in awe of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. I think it will be great to be able to ask them one day what they thought when they first learned about the plan of God to become both the perfect God and perfect Man in order to carry out the plan of redemption. Of course, everything we know about Angels is that they are pretty ‘matter of fact’ beings. They are not as surprised or confused about the ways of God as we are. They watched creation itself, remember? They know what God can do! But still…

But you know what else came with the plan for God to become a man in His journey to the manger and then on to the Cross and up from the Tomb? What else came with the plan was you! Say what? That’s right! Let’s see: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us His mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill His own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan.” Eph 1:3-11 NLT

Theologians have marveled throughout the millennia of time about the implications of this revelation. But what we can draw out of this in relation to Christ’s journey from the throne to the manger to the cross is that even though you and I were not on the journey with Christ to the manger, we were certainly on His mind and in His heart all along the way. And we weren’t excess baggage that Christ had to carry to the manger and the Cross…no, Jesus called us something else and thought of us as something else. Are you ready for this? Jesus said that we were ‘the gifts’ that He carried all along His journey. Gifts you say? We were His gifts? Why were we His gifts? Well, because of what Jesus Himself said about us in His high priestly prayer in John 17. Notice carefully: John 17:1-10- “After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so He can give glory back to you. For you have given Him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one You have given Him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one You sent to earth. I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave me to do. Now, Father, bring Me into the glory we shared before the world began. I have revealed You to the ones You gave Me from this world. They were always Yours. You gave them to Me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from You, for I have passed on to them the message You gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from You, and they believe you sent Me. My prayer is not for the world, but for those You have given Me, because they belong to You. All who are Mine belong to You, and You have given them to Me, so they bring Me glory.” NLT

Five times within ten verses Jesus says that we are ‘gifts’ that the Father has given to Him. How does that make you feel? Feeling significant now? Now then, we know that Jesus is our gift from the Father to us, but did you also know that you are a gift to Jesus from the Father? That is hard for us to comprehend or to even humbly believe or accept about ourselves concerning how that could be. “Me, a gift to Jesus from the Father?! Me, with my failings and flaws and falling short in so many ways of being all I should be and all I should be doing for my Savior? Me, a gift to Jesus?” Based upon the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself…this is absolutely true of you…you are a gift to Jesus from our God and Father! And Jesus is overjoyed with His gift of you! He has even promised to keep His gift of you secure for eternity. John 10:27-29- “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” NASU

As marvelous and overwhelming as this revelation is for a humble believer to believe and to rest in, still…add this truth to your Christmas experience this year…that under Jesus’ tree, the Cross of Calvary, was a gift from the Father to His Son…it was the gift of you. God the Father gave to Jesus the Son the gift of you for all that He had done to save you and to have you as a child of His, a child of God forever. Merry Christmas indeed!

We’ll continue our journey next time…

  1. gotquestions.org, What does creation ex nihilo mean?
  2. gotquestions.org, When did God create Angels