Linger at the Manger
By Major Beth Desplancke, THQ
Christmas is a busy time – hustle and bustle of the season: gifts to buy, trees to decorate, holiday meals and goodies to plan, prepare and eat. The days of December just seem to zoom by. In all the busyness it is so easy to forget the reason for the season is Jesus. This evening we are going to stop for a few minutes and spend some time and linger at the manger. To linger is a verb – an action word – and it means to stay in a place longer than necessary, typically because of a reluctance to leave.
Think about the first Christmas – lingering was totally happening. Let’s look at Mary. When Gabriel appeared to her and told her she was going to have a baby, I am sure she lingered in the spot, after Gabriel, left, and thought about what is said, and tossed about in her mind what it meant. After hearing the news the Bible says she went and stayed with her relative, Elisabeth, for 3 months. That’s a long visit – that’s a lot of time linger. I am sure both Mary and Elisabeth spent time lingering over what both of their miraculous pregnancies would mean for them and for the world. While she stayed with Elisabeth, Mary sang a song of praise to the Lord. In her song, you can tell she had spent a lot of time lingering and meditating on who God is, and what He means to her. Read Luke 1:46-55.
As the time came to have her first child, she had to travel with her fiancé Joseph to Bethlehem to register for the census. Did Mary linger, not wanting to leave the comfort and the familiarity of her home? Did she linger looking at the cradle Joseph had made for her son. Despite the desire to linger, she took the journey with Joseph, probably hoping her child wouldn’t come while on this trip.
While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Jesus to be born. Anyone who has had a baby knows that childbirth isn’t the time to linger – you want it done NOW! But after that precious child is born, all you want to do is linger and admire the miracle that is snuggled in your arms.
Despite the fact it wasn’t the ideal location, to welcome a newborn into the world, Mary would have wanted to linger and admire her beautiful child: counting His fingers and toes, feeling the fuzz of his hair on her cheek, admiring his cute button nose, holding him close and speaking soothing words to him. Like any mother, Mary would have savored everything about her child.
The first visitors to see the newborn child were shepherds. They had heard and seen an amazing things and they checked it out for themselves. I can guarantee that although they rushed to Bethlehem to see the newborn Savior, they didn’t rush away. They would have lingered in His presence as long as they possible could because they were in the presence of the Messiah, the Savior. When they did finally depart they made sure they shared the news of what they had seen with others.
Mary spent more time lingering. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). She treasured all that happened in her heart – she was storing the memories of the precious moment in her mind and heart forever.
Later, Wise Men from the East arrived. I know lots of nativity sets include the wise men, but they weren’t there the night He was born; it could have been as much as 2 years later when they arrived. They had journeyed quite a distance, and when they found Him Matthew 2:11 tells us, On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
They had come a long way to see the one born the King of the Jews; they didn’t simply glance at Jesus and toss the gifts at Him, and say “cute kid” and rush off. No, they stopped and knelt and took the time to worship Him. They lingered with Him.
The challenge for each of us in the busyness of this season, when the to-do-lists are longer than usual, is to not be so busy that we neglect the reason for the season. Psalm 46:10 is God speaking; and He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” We need to be still, to cease from striving, to stop, and to simply linger at the manger – really focusing on Jesus and what His birth means this Christmas season.