The message of the manger

Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA
Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA

Charlotte Square in Edinburgh is the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, the pugnacious Nicola Sturgeon.

A few doors away from Bute House is a property under the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

Visitors to the impressive three storey Georgian mansion learn that for almost thirty years, it belonged to the minister of Free St. George’s Church, Edinburgh, the Rev. Alexander Whyte.

Whyte’s life-storey is fascinating.

He mother Janet Thompson was unmarried, thinking that to marry the child’s father would simply add one sin to another. She battled extreme poverty to provide for her boy, even being forced to sell blankets from her own bed to make ends meet.

Fast forward forty years.

Whyte is minister of fashionable St. George’s. He has married well, and his family is expanding. But the memory of his own humble beginnings has never left him.

One morning he rushes upstairs to tell the other children about the birth of a little brother, and he reflects, ‘He is lying down there with every comfort, and our Saviour was laid in a manger.’

The glory of the Christmas message is that God did not send his Son to the high and mighty, but to the humble and the needy.

The directions given to the shepherds did not send them to Bethlehem’s West End---if there was such a place--nor to a comfortable nursery.

Rather, they were directed to a stable and a manger. In what may have been a snatch of an early Christian hymn, we are told that Jesus ‘humbled himself’,(Philippians 2; 8). In one of his hymns Charles Wesley says that Christ, ‘emptied himself of all but love.’

Not greater evidence of humility could be imagined than that of a baby ‘lying in a manger’.

Some scholars contend that the word translated ‘stable’ really refers to a cave.

There are no doors on a cave, and there, open to all the world, Mary was delivered of her child.

The unspoken symbolism is that the way to the Saviour is open to all; to the rude shepherds as well as the sophisticated Magi.

Other religions may sanction a rigorous caste system, but not Christianity. Even in its closing chapter the Bible proclaims, ‘Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life’(Revelation 22;17)