Maintaining A Manger Mentality

Maintaining A Manger Mentality December 12, 2023

Manger holds hay and a baby wrapped in white cloths.
Baby Jesus was placed in a manger following His birth. [Picture courtesy of Pixabay.]

Beautiful things fill the Christmas season—music, lights, greenery, decorations, etc. But a key item in the Christmas story isn’t what anyone would describe as beautiful. The manger where Mary placed Jesus was utilitarian, but more importantly it symbolized humility. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to come to Earth in human form and lie in a smelly animal feeder because of His great love for us. Jesus’s followers should strive to pursue a manger mentality as well.

The Christmas Prop

Reading Luke’s account of the Jesus’ birth (i.e., the Christmas story), offers a much-loved activity during Christmas. And, if it weren’t for Luke, Christians would not be aware of the presence of a manger in this story. Luke is the only author in the New Testament to use the word “manger.”

The disciple mentions “manger” in three familiar verses from the Christmas story:

— “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

–“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

–“They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16).

The manger Luke mentions served as a unique sign. What other king—Jesus was born King of the Jews—would be found lying in such a place?

What’s A Manger?

The biblical account in Luke and Christmas hymns such “Away In A Manger’ make clear Baby Jesus rested in a manger, but what’s a manger? Well, it’s not a lovely baby bed; it’s an animal feeder. Mangers, usually made of rough-hewn wood, are nothing more than a trough or open box in a stable holding feed for livestock. Yes, Jesus’s bed served as a big bowl for a donkey or cow’s meal.

The derivation of the word manger emphasizes its function as a feeding apparatus. Manger evolved from the Latin word munducare, meaning “to eat.” Those who raised livestock made sure mangers were kept full of food for their animals, who were valuable beasts of burden.

Nativity scene in stable with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus who's in the manger.
Jesus’s first nursery was in a stable, and His first bed was an animal feeding trough. [Picture courtesy of Pixabay.]

Significance Of A Manger

A hit song by Willie Nelson contains lyrics saying, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way.” Well, Jesus was literally perfect in every way. But how humbling must it have been to leave the splendor of heaven and arrive in a dark, smelly stable? Even more humbling? Being laid on a bed of hay like a garnishment for a cow salad. You can’t get much lower than that.

The familiar, but not wildly popular, Christmas hymn “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” ( captures the dichotomy between who Jesus was, the holy Son of God, and his circumstances at birth, set in the last place anyone would want to voluntarily put their baby down. This traditional Polish Christmas carol is known as “In The Manger He Lies” in Polish, turning the focus of the holiday directly on where Jesus arrived when He came for us.,_Infant_Lowly

Jesus’s placement in the feeding trough of a lowly stable hints at what’s ahead for Him. Christmas may have been the start of His earthly journey, but that journey led to the cross where Jesus willingly atoned for our sins. And how did He refer to Himself closer to His crucifixion? As the Bread of Life. So, He loved us enough to humble Himself to come as a helpless infant lying in a stable’s manger and to provide us with the essential spiritual nourishment we need for eternal life—Him, the Bread of Life.

Crown sitting on hay in a manger.
Although He was born King of the Jews, Baby Jesus slept in a manger, an animal feeding trough. [Picture courtesy of Pixabay.]

A Manger Mentality

Jesus’s willingness to come and sleep in a manger screams the concept of humility. As defined by Dr. Anna K. Shaffner, “Humility is an attitude of spiritual modesty that comes from understanding our place in the larger order of things.”

While Jesus’ place is on the throne as God Almighty, He understood His intervention would be necessary to reconcile God and man. In the order of things, His love required He give of Himself to achieve the desired end for man whom He had created. He placed OUR interests ahead of His own. Why would He be willing to die a cruel and violent death for something He didn’t do otherwise? Dr. Shaffner notes the basis of humility is a caring, compassionate attitude towards others. And Jesus embodied the concept of God being love.

To model Jesus’ behavior of caring for others, believers must embrace a manger mentality. Humility, observed through love and care for others can be a forceful witness. Our being humbler than thou will impact non-believers more effectively than a holier than thou attitude.

About Alice H. Murray
After over 30 years as a Florida adoption attorney, Alice H. Murray now pursues a different path as Operations Manager for End Game Press. With a passion for writing, she is constantly creating with words. Her work includes contributions to several Short And Sweet books, The Upper Room, Chicken Soup For The Soul, Abba’s Lessons (from CrossRiver Media), and the Northwest Florida Literary Review. Alice is a regular contributor to GO!, a quarterly Christian magazine in the Florida Panhandle, and she has three devotions a month published online by Dynamic Women in Missions. Her devotions have also appeared in compilation devotionals such as Ordinary People Extraordinary God (July 2023) and Guideposts’ Pray A Word A Day, Vol. 2 (June 2023) and pray a word for Hope (September 2023). Alice’s first book, The Secret of Chimneys, an annotated Agatha Christie mystery, was released in April 2023 with a second such book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. You can read more about the author here.

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