Community Voices

Guest Column: So, about all those Christmas manger scenes in town…

Manger scene
A manger scene outside Celtic Cross Presbyterian Church in Citrus Heights. // CH Sentinel

Guest column by Citrus Heights resident Michael Bullington–
A tour of Citrus Heights neighborhoods this year reveals a greater prevalence of manger scenes than in years past.

Michael Bullington
Michael Bullington

We’ve all seen the usual persons present at the first nativity scene. There’s Joseph and Mary leaning over the newborn babe. Looking on are the three wise men, the shepherds and their sheep.

How many of us wonder why we are still celebrating the birth of an infant these many years later? If you’re wondering, then perhaps you will find the following account of interest.

The birth of this child was prophesied throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:6-7). We are told that he was to come in order to take away our sins (Isaiah 53: 5-12).

Also, we read that his mother was to be a virgin at the time of his birth (Isaiah 7:14), indicating that he was not the product of a consummated relationship. The biblical account recounts that he was born of God’s Spirit, making the father God Himself. Joseph was simply the stepfather of Jesus.

The law condemned any relationship that produced a child outside of marriage. And for that reason, in order to protect Mary and preserve his reputation, Joseph was prepared to quietly put her away and not go through with the marriage. One can only imagine the turmoil that filled their hearts.

So, what was the significance of a virgin birth? Simply this: If Jesus was to reconcile the sin barrier between God and man, he would have to be both God and man. I can best explain this through the following illustration.

When I was in high school, my dad took me on a trip to northern Florida to investigate a tragedy near one of his company’s oil rigs. As fate would have it, the tension between labor and management boiled over into the stabbing death of one of the management team.

My dad was sent to find out what happened and report back to the upper management group at the company’s headquarters in New Orleans, where we lived. He was chosen because he had been raised in rural Louisiana and could identify with other folks of similar background. At the same time, he had completed his college studies in engineering at Louisiana State University, which enabled him to interface effectively with his colleagues in management.

Only in hindsight did I come to understand what I was about to witness.

The morning after we got there, we visited the onshore rig. The oil-blackened roughnecks gathered around my dad, who spun his back-home humor and stories, as he questioned them about their angst with the management team. By the time he was done, they had to have thought that they could trust him because “he’s one of us.”

At lunch, we sat down with his peers, the managers. There were stories and jokes about their respective universities, speculation about whose football team would excel the coming year and the all- important details about the dysfunction in their relationship with the laborers. By the time they were done, they most certainly felt that my dad was “one of us.”

On this basis, he was able to return to New Orleans with a thorough report on the factors that led to the violence. You see, dad was perfectly suited to mediate the dispute because both parties identified with the country boy-professional engineer as being “one of us.”

In a similar way, Jesus Christ appeared on earth as the perfect mediator between God and man by virtue of his mixed parentage. His mother was a (hu)man and His Father was God. Hence, He was both God and man, the only person to ever qualify to mediate the cosmic dispute between the alienated parties.

This “God-Man” first appeared as the most defenseless of creatures. He would also die as the most defenseless of men. But He would shed his humanity on the cross and be raised to sit in glory at the right hand of the Father, to return in power to earth in the fullness of time.

As you drive around noticing the many manger scenes this Christmas season, consider taking the time to contemplate who was born in that most humble of circumstances and what He has done for you -– making it possible to be reconciled to God and to live life to the full, now and for all eternity. Then see if this is not the best Christmas season you’ve ever had.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Michael Bullington is a 34-year resident of Citrus Heights and a 39-year student of history. The Sentinel welcomes guest opinion columns on local topics from Citrus Heights residents. To submit an article for publication, click here.