Do you know what “Bethlehem” signifies in Hebrew? Its meaning, “House of Bread,” connects remarkably with Jesus being placed in a manger there…
My favorite Christmas decoration of all we ever put on display here at “the farm” was one my husband set up and spotlighted beside the driveway: a manger with a cross just behind it. To me, its imagery spoke so clearly of the reason Baby Jesus came to earth to be laid in a manger: someday later, to be laid on a cross and bear the penalty for our sins.
But there’s also specific reason for a manger to be His infant resting place. That came across to me in a quirkier way…
After a couple of Christmastimes of the cross-and-manger holding its location by the drive, my husband moved it to the pasture, where our real, flesh-and-wool sheep grazed. He thought that setting was more natural and fitting. But the sheep kept eating the hay that lined the manger and jumping into it to snuggle down there.
Well, who can blame them? A manger is, after all, a feeding trough for sheep—and a good spot for warmth and comfort amid this world’s coldness.
Yes. It is. And the LORD often spoke of His people, in both Old and New Testaments, as His sheep. Jesus referred to Himself as the good Shepherd and His true followers as His flock.
He also spoke of Himself as “…the bread of life,” “the bread come down from heaven,” and promised, “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” He even told the people to feed on Him!
He made these statements just after miraculously feeding thousands in the wilderness from a handful of small bread loaves. He was talking about something beyond physical bread and physical life. But most of the people, unable to think beyond the material world, didn’t get it. So when he started telling them they needed to feast upon Him, they were scandalized.
I hope you know what it means to feast upon Jesus, upon all that He is.
Those crowds in the wilderness were most concerned about feeding their physical bodies, but Jesus’ words in John 6:27 echo Isaiah 55:2’s warning to labor instead for “bread” that “endures to eternal life.”
During this Christmas season, when human minds dwell much on earthly food, may we act more like the flock of Christ’s sheepfold than the folks who sought him in the wilderness for mere material blessing. Let us “eat what is good, and let [our] soul[s] delight…in abundance”—by feasting our hearts on the Bread of Life, Who was placed, one ancient season, in a feeding trough in Bethlehem, “The House of Bread.”