The other half of my favorite decoration we no longer use…
It’s. Not. This.
But it’s very closely related…
Manger. Crib. Creche.
I hear the first word and think back to French 101, and the French word “manger.” Spelled the same as our English word, though pronounced differently, it means “to eat.”
And sure enough, my Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins (which contains fascinating stuff), says, “Etymologically manger means ‘eater’ or ‘feeding place,” adding that it comes from an old French word with that meaning, adopted from the old common-Latin word for “chew.”
“Crib,” in Old English also meant “manger,” feeding place, the same book also says. (That’s why this word appears in Isaiah 1:3 KJV.) “Crib” only started to be used for “a child’s bed” sometime in the 17th century.
The corn crib in the photo above isn’t exactly a feeder, but is nevertheless a holder for food.
Creche is simply the French word for crib, feeder, food holder.
Think about it: Jesus as a babe was laid in a rough wood feeding trough, in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.”
He grew up and went out and fed multitudes with bread broken and torn, then told them He was the Bread of Life.
Shortly thereafter, He broke bread alone in an upper room with His disciples and told them, “This is my body, given for you… Take, and eat.”
And right after that he allowed His body to be laid out again on rough wood, not of a manger but an execution device, yet still the provision place for our Bread of Life.
Back in Bethlehem, three decades before, stretched out long upon that crib, that manger, fell the foreshadow of the cross. And so I did love the rough spot-lit manger standing at Christmastime before and beneath a rough-wood cross, where at a certain place at a certain time of day you could see the shadow of cross on manger. And ponder.
Ponder these wonders with me now, and share my awe.
[There’s yet more “astounding meaning wrapped up in this humble thing,” a manger. Lately Isaiah 1:2-3 has been ringing echoes through my mind and heart. And I can’t help tying it all together: those two verses, the manger, the cross, and Christ, as both the Word of Life and the giver of “word(s) of eternal life” (John 6:68). More on this next time, God willing…]