Our Mud, His Manger

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“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us
The government will rest on His shoulders
His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace…”

– The prophet Isaiah[1]


When we reflect on the birth of the Galilean, the Word of God incarnate,[2] we can so easily and blissfully get lost in the many names (natures) of the Triune God revealed to us in the glowing face of Jesus—a Man who seemed so ordinary, we’d likely have passed Him on the street without realizing the glory He’d forfeited to stand beside us.[3] Yet it is right we are mesmerized. It is right to beg His Name of Him, “seeing it is beautiful.”[4] It is right to journey through Advent to meet Him at the manger, sink our knees into the mud beside Him, and stare in wonder at the humility required for the God of glory to find Himself in diapers.[5]

Our history began with this mud and dirt and dust; He is so fond of forming new things with it, He used it to give new eyes to a blind man.[6] I hope I never get used to the idea that when the Word intervened for death-bound traitors, He did so as a “father who knows our frame and remembers we are but dust.”[7] He made His move with mercy for our mess. He didn’t forget the dirt He made us out of. He didn’t hold us to a higher standard than our limitations allowed. We believed bad things, did dumb things, and have made a mess we could not get ourselves out of (some of us are making a mess right now). He didn’t abandon us or unequivocally condemn us. He just got in the dirt with us. He lived all our limitations just like us. (How He did it for over thirty years without ever sinfully losing His temper still just makes me dumbstruck.) 

We made a mess in our mud, and Heaven’s answer was to get into the manger.

James would lean on this counter-intuitive example later as directive on how to treat your believing buddy when they get entangled in some kind of sin-drunk stupidity—because we’re being conformed into the image of the compassionate Father who causes a famine to pull us out of a pig pen, push us home, and then runs off the porch to meet us in the road.[8] Paul pulled from this as a model for marriage: “husbands, love your wives, give up your life for them, just like Jesus did for you, so that He could wash you with the water of His Word and clean you up for the resurrection.”[9]

It is an intimate intervention. There is no way to stay clean or dry when you’re giving someone a bath—not a child, not an ill or handicapped relative, not a heroin addict, and definitely not your Labrador. Giving someone a good wash means you get in the process with them. It means you get soaked the same. It means you get their dirt on you. This is what Jesus did in the Incarnation. He got your dirt on Him and He didn’t get mad about it. He took on the form of His form, bottled Himself into a dusty frame that looks just like the rest of us made out of dirt and blood, and got in our mess with us. “The Word made flesh”[10] got all up in our mud and emphatically and consistently declared who God is and what He is like—that He is patient. Gracious. Meek. Long-suffering. Just. Kind. Humble. Hopeful. Forgiving. Wise. Compassionate. Generous. Merciful. Abounding in lovingkindness.[11]

Christmas is a lot of things to a lot of people. Cookies, midnight Mass, family traditions, or a budget deficit and a stressful reunion of relatives who otherwise don’t talk throughout the year. It might just be a reminder that the year is winding down. It might be a mile-marker or a reminder of the seat still empty at your dinner table. Whatever it is, it is something and I don’t know many people (read: anybody) who wake up December 26th oblivious to the day before. You’ll meet Christmas morning, evening, and the day after with some kind of belief in something that may or may not agree with the eternal Word.

Let it be a day you take stock of your mud and mind and meet your intervening Savior in the manger. Let the Word of God wash you anew (i.e., pick up your Bible and get with some believing buddies), and confront the things you think and believe that fundamentally oppose who He is and what He says. As long as we’re in this “present evil age,” there are weeds of unbelief in there somewhere.[12] He is the Wonderful Counselor who can guide you through it. He is the Mighty God who can pull you out of it. He is the Eternal Father who won’t ever leave you behind. He is the Prince of Peace who can silence whatever storm is raging around or within you. 

He is the Word made flesh. He’s here to walk you through it.


Stephanie Quick is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at stephanie@stephaniequick.org.


[1] Isaiah 9:6
[2] See John 1
[3] Isaiah 53:2; II Corinthians 4:6; Philippians 2:6-7; for the chosen use of the word "forfeit," see "Hymn" by Brooke Fraser.
[4] Judges 13:18; we recommend Hillsong’s “What A Beautiful Name” to get stuck in your head
[5] Matthew and Luke each record the birth of Jesus in the beginnings of their Gospels
[6] Genesis 2:7; John 9:6
[7] Psalm 103:14
[8] Luke 15:11-32
[9] Ephesians 5:25-32
[10] John 1:14
[11] Exodus 34:6-7; Matthew 11:29; I Corinthians 13:4-8
[12] Galatians 1:4