Lying in a Manger — 2014 Ornament

This year’s 15th annual ornament, “Lying in a Manger” speaks to 2014, a “What’s wrong with this picture?” kind of year – odd, puzzling and periodically disturbing….

Last Christmas, I was six months into a promising new position that abruptly ended in early January. Following another ten months of career-searching, I turned to simply finding a job and landed a part-time position with a major retailer in early November where I presently work.

As the rest of the year teetered through a series of ups and downs and in-betweens, Christ was my anchor along with my wife, church and family.

RBC Ministries ‘Discovery Series’ booklets are among several favorite sources of Biblical teaching and context including “The Real Gift of Christmas” by Dan Schaeffer that gave rise to this year’s “Lying in a Manger” ornament inspiration that speaks into the “What’s wrong with this picture?” dilemma. I pray it and my message offered below (on explanation card for ornament recipients) resonates with any and all oddities in your picture as well.
— Glenn (“FarmingtonGlenn”) – Christmas 2014

2014 "Lying in a Manger" ornament

Lying in a manger...

While the baby Jesus “lying in a manger” is the central point of the tranquil scenes we prominently feature among our Christmas decorations, the actual birth event was probably not so tranquil for first time parents Joseph and Mary. The story told in Luke presents the manger crib as a concession because there was “no room at the inn.”

Luke declared that “the time came for the baby to be born,” suggesting no time to second-guess the unlikely birthing place. Perhaps in the quiet after the birth, Mary and Joseph’s thoughts turned again to reconciling the lofty claims offered by angelic messengers to both of them just nine months earlier with this birthplace fit well for animals of labor but not so well for a redeemer king. Had they somehow missed an important cue between then and now?

Could the cards be any more stacked against their baby to enter into the world to be saved at such a disadvantaged position? Where had they gone wrong?

Meanwhile another angelic disturbance was underway in the night sky above the dark pastures surrounding Bethlehem. This time a group of shepherds is the odd audience for a heavenly host of angels heralding a Savior born in the town of David who is Christ the Lord. He is to be found “lying in a manager.”

This time, “lying in a manger” is a sign given to find the right baby among many babies in Bethlehem that night due to families streaming into town to be counted in the census imposed by Caesar Augustus. No other baby would be “lying in a manger,” only Jesus, the one they sought.

But why shepherds? And why send them off to seek the baby in the manger?

God laced every moment of that evening with message and meaning, suggests Schaeffer. To shepherds, lowest on the Jewish societal strata, were given the honor to be first to see the Savior and then to release news of his arrival to the community. What comfort for them to seek their redeemer in a place that they of all people would know where to look and not feel unfit to visit?

Still, imagine their wonder as they searched. What kind of Savior arrives in a stable birthing room and a manger crib that would be unusual even in their own time? Indeed, what kind of Savior?

Then what of Mary and Joseph? Queried Schaeffer, “When the rugged shepherd worshipers arrived to see their child, did Mary and Joseph sigh in relief? Did the joy of confirmation flood their souls, washing away any doubt that might have accumulated in their hearts?”

“I think it did,” he surmised. “The heavenly-inspired visit by the shepherds was an additional confirmation that their present circumstances were exactly what God had deemed.”

So this Christmas, permit this “Lying in a Manger” ornament to be a sign for you as well, an invitation. Nothing about your situation is the least bit odd to God. Rest assured that he is working for His glory and your good. So bring your stuff and yourself to him whatever your current state. Like the shepherds, you are welcome and fit to visit.


  1. COMMENTS WELCOME and ENCOURAGED here about how the ornament and/or message struck you ESPECIALLY from ornament recipients. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE a 2014 “Lying in a Manger” ornament, simply request one by emailing me at  No guarantees but if I can get one to you, I will.  If shipping is required, I may ask you to cover those costs.
    1. The inspiration for this ornament came from my reading in September 2014 of “The Real Gift of Christmas”, an RBC Ministries ‘Discovery Series’ booklet by Dan Schaeffer.  Link:
    2. Star charm: Finishing touch, the “Antique Brass Star Outline” charm

    The anchor scripture is Luke 2:12 but for context, read Luke 2: 4-19.

Distress Anecdote — Try This

Malaise, distress, despair – ever have periods like that?

That is where life finds me right now.  I have food, a home, health.  But after 40 years of employment, 3 ½ years of joblessness has me out of sorts, disconnected. Although I am grateful for the generosity of friends and family and temporary jobs here and there, having a regular livelihood is having a stake in community life. Somehow, I lost my stake…

My distress anecdote is Bible reading.  While written thousands of years ago, the Bible reveals life and the world as it is today.  In its pages is the human condition as well as a bit of nature, science and history.  Mostly, it’s God writing to people who believe it him – you and me.  Read to seek Him and you will get what you need for life and what you face.

It’s easy to see why there is so much depression and violence and escapism and preoccupation with death and interest in spirituality (including God).  Life is hard.  If you are not in a little groove of niceness that works for you, it’s pretty difficult to get life going in the right direction, even if what works isn’t very healthy.

But if God is real and if what He promises can be reasonably counted on, well that would be something worth living for even through the godly life is not an easy path.  But it’s a solid and true path in the midst of a very mushy world.

Here are two tips:

  1. Pick a plan and get to it. There are plenty of them around.  Look on the internet. (I use the Bible Reading System.)
  2. Set reading goals but don’t fret if you miss them, because you will. When you do, just pick back up where you left off.

I’ve been following a daily reading plan for nearly three years. I’ve read the Bible straight through a couple other times but this program holds my interest more. It’s a plan but sequenced in such a way that the chapters read on any given day have no apparent connection to each other.  Read in this manner, I get a strong sense of the continuity of God’s voice and message.  And I am continually amazed at how I see my very life situation reflected in ancient words.

Although my goal is to read 9 chapters a day, some days I only read 2 or 3 or 7 chapters, or none.  I usually take Sundays off from the plan because I devote Sunday to church and what’s going on there. The point is, make it your own.  Read each day then pick up where you left off next time.

The road of life is often bumpy and many sections are shrouded in darkness. Keep your Bible nearby and read it often – daily.  It will light your path.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
— Psalm 119: 105, KJV