It was a feeding trough, a box-like structure for animals to eat hay. It was called a manger. But on one particular night it was so much more.
You see, there had been no place, no hotel room. There was no hospital with a clean emergency room or obstetrics wing. There was literally no room in the inn.
Mary was oh so ready for the baby to come. The miles and the trip had been long. If she rode on a donkey, each bump and jostle would have reminded her that the nine months of waiting were almost over. If she walked some or even all of the way the weight of the baby bearing down on her already swollen legs and pulling her aching back would have also been a reminder that time was short.
When they finally arrived in Bethlehem, she may have breathed a sigh of relief. They were finally there. She undoubtedly hoped for a place to rest. But no, there was no room.
The only place for Mary to lie down was in a space that housed a manger. It was a shelter for weary, hungry animals.
Perhaps Joseph gathered as much clean straw as he could find to prepare a makeshift bed for his sweet wife. He could see the pains were coming. Time was short and she needed to lie down.
Was it hours that she labored? Joseph helped in every way he could. And when finally, the cry of life was heard, they both knew the precious promise of God had come.
They wrapped His little body in strips of cloth for protection and laid the newborn Jesus in a manger.
A manger? What kind of cradle was that for the Son of God?
A good one.
The manger was indeed a place for food, and after all, Jesus is the Bread of Life.
The manger was also a marker for shepherds out in their fields who were about to get the surprise of their lives.