What Is the Meaning and Significance of the Manger?

Jesus, being born in a manger, highlights that there is no place that bars the way for the Lord. All of this reveals how accessible and available Jesus is to sinners. The King of Kings and the Lord of lords came humbly, and His first bed was a manger.

Manger and the tomb

At Christmas, it’s common to hear that the Lord Jesus was “born in a manger.” Yet, we say this so freely during this period of time, we may not understand the significance of what it means.

Further, if we say Jesus was “born in a manger,” we need to understand that was where Mary laid Jesus after His birth (Luke 2:7). We aren’t sure the precise location of where Jesus was born, but we do know that it was near Bethlehem, and there was a manger there.

The Story of Jesus Is the Story of the Bible

In Genesis 3:15, after man’s first sin, God promised to come and bring salvation to humanity. Hundreds of years after this first gospel was proclaimed, the Prophet Micah foretold the birth of Jesus in the small town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Micah 5:2 was fulfilled when the earthly parents of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, were called to Bethlehem for a census of the entire Roman territory (Luke 2:1-5). In Bethlehem, the time came for the Lord Jesus to be born (Luke 2:6).

At the night of the birth of Jesus, there were shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks; an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said,

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).

The angel’s announcement is good news for people of that time and today. In case the shepherds had any doubts, the angel gave them confirmation of the truth that had been spoken.

They would find the child lying in the manger. The manger is mentioned three times (Luke 2:7,12,16) in this narrative, an indication of its importance.

The Angel, the Shepherds, and Sinners Today

The angel explained the significance of Jesus in the manger as a sign to the shepherds that good news has come for them and all people.

The animal feeding trough served as the Savior’s crib so that the shepherds might believe He was just as they were. Jesus was coming to be among them, joining with them in their lowliness.

Though Jesus was rich, He came poor for sinners, so that through His poverty, we might become rich. The Lord was acting for sinners, and He was seeking in the manger to show that it was so.

The Good Shepherd would first make His bed among the sheep. The saving God who made His tent with Israel in the wilderness now made His tent in the flesh, and His name is Immanuel, God with us.

The narrative of Christ’s birth was about the shepherds and people today. God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him might be saved (John 3:16).

The Lord does not depend on anything from His creation, so what He does is not done to meet His own needs. The self-sufficiency of God leaves no room for the sinful self-obsession to which fallen creatures are so vulnerable to commit.

The love of God and God’s benevolence towards sinners moved God the Father to send God the Son, the Lord Jesus, into the world. The manger demonstrates that the Lord cares for people because He came under the sentence of death for their sins.

Why Jesus Came into the World

Paul says to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:12-16 that the Lord’s grace is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. The Lord Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the worst of them all, Paul himself.

We may be tempted to think that Paul is overstating his case; indeed, he can’t possibly mean that he is the worst, possible sinner, right? Many have felt the same way as Paul.

Yet, Paul says that he received mercy for this reason that in him as the foremost, Christ might display His patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Many, today, struggle with this idea for a variety of reasons. It may be because they’ve experienced issues in their relationship with their father, so they view God the Father the same way as they do their earthly father. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve experienced some abuse, or they have some sinful entanglements in their lives.

Yet, here, we are confronted with the idea that no matter what has happened in our lives, there is hope of acceptance from God, for God saved the worst and used them as an instrument to trumpet the gospel to the known world, like the Apostle Paul.

In this way, the manger is ideally suited for sinners. Jesus came into the world under a death sentence to save sinners no matter how great their sin is. All of history is about Jesus — His death and resurrection.

The Bible ends not only with God in His glory, but with the redeemed clothed with the glory of God and the Lord dwelling with them. When we have grasped this blessed truth in all of its beauty, we will not be carried into self-obsession. Instead, we will sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

Jesus was delivered by his mother, Mary, wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger (Luke 2:7). Later that night, the shepherds from the fields found Jesus as the angels told them they would (Luke 2:10-12). What we see in Jesus being born in a manger is that he was born in meekness. All of this reveals how approachable, accessible, and available Jesus is to sinners.

Further, Jesus, being born in a manger, highlights that there is no place that bars the way for the Lord Jesus, nor can any ring of guards prevent our approach to Him. The King of Kings and the Lord of lords came humbly, and His first bed was a manger.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/jchizhe


Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon.