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 FarmingtonGlenn@gmail.com.  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: http://web001.rbc.org/pdf/discovery-series/the-real-gift-of-christmas.pdf
    2. Star charm: Finishing touch, the “Antique Brass Star Outline” charm http://www.artbeads.com/bba-ch002.html

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

Blessed Are the … Yeast? — 2012 Ornament

Glenn's 2012 Ornament (13th Annual): Blessed Are the…Yeast?

I was struck one day in my Bible reading with what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God. His audience did not have 2000+ years of Christianity behind them heralding him as God incarnate. But they had an idea about the kind of kingdom God’s would be. If it was truly God’s, it would certainly dominate any earthly rival.

But domination was not among the ideas Jesus shared about the Kingdom of God nor were might, majesty or power. Rather, ordinary and even lowly fit better for this kingdom Jesus claimed was home to him and “at hand” and accessible to all present.

Jesus depicted Kingdom people as poor in spirit and meek, mournful, merciful, peacemakers (Matthew 5: 1-10). And then he drew upon common, every day items to describe how Kingdom “subjects” were, like salty salt (v13), light-giving lamps (v14) and in another lesson, seeds that grow into giant trees, and a small portion of yeast that leavens a large batch of dough (Luke 13: 18-21).

Yeast. That one struck me. You can’t get more ordinary than yeast.

In 2012 after four plus years of career search posturing, I failed to secure any of the positions I sought despite making “the finals” on several occasions. But as I searched, I kept God in clear view and trusted that the doors that opened were either opened by Him or allowable by Him for me to pursue. This I did with every one. And here I stand, where I now am.

While I can’t see how my present fits with the balance of my life, I trust I am where God wants me right now. I am not in a career but I have a job with a good company. I don’t have impact like I would as an organizational manager but I can certainly be Kingdom yeast in my workplace.

The lesson of yeast and all Jesus’ kingdom analogies is that attaining the manner of God’s kingdom does not require any measure of success or status in this kingdom, the kingdom of the world, life now. In fact, success in this world may jeopardize our ability to truly see or at least dim our view of the Kingdom of God. (I need to keep that in mind if I should ever find my way back into whatever it is I think I’m looking for!)

Another realization from further study on this topic: virtually every Biblical character experienced this wandering into seemingly wayward places while being attentive to God, including Jesus himself. Think of his beginning, our Christmas: The scandal of his apparent illegitimacy seemed to cling to him even into adulthood – John 8:41?

When in this life, you feel helpless or impotent or left by the wayside, be alert to God slipping in under the radar to win you back to himself or re-establish your relationship with him. Christmas is about that.

If you should be so fortunate to join or rejoin the Kingdom procession, take heart when (not if!) you wander into some places and situations that are not what you had in mind. Where you find yourself will be where He is accomplishing His purposes in and through you.

…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33b


    FRONT: Fleshman’s (Blessed Are the…) YEAST; All Natural
    BACK: BLESSED ARE THE … YEAST?; (Jesus) asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to”  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  (Luke 13: 20-21, NIV84)
  2. PERSONAL NOTE: This year’s ornament title melds words from three of Jesus’ teachings:

    1) Borrowing a “Blessed are…” from his “Beatitudes” – how God’s Kingdom is (Matthew 5: 1-16)
    2) A missing word, “Least.” How God is “in” our care of the least among us.  (Matthew 25: 40)
    3) And, “Yeast” – Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to an ordinary staple of life that  everyone could relate to. (Luke 13:21)

    All of the above describes the year of 2012 for me – The sense of not hitting the mark (Least) and being merely ordinary (Yeast) in a world attentive to everything but.  But, all the while, “Blessed…” by people in my life lifting me up and, every step of the way, God!
  3. DESIGN INSPIRATION: came from the Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast package (http://www.fleischmannsyeast.com/landing.html). I presume their yeast is great but their package had perfect ornament appeal!