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Stop and Smell the Manger

Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.
–Luke 1:38

The actress Helen Hayes, by her own admission, wasn’t a very good cook. One year, she decided to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. She told her husband and son, “I’m going to prepare dinner and bring it out. If you don’t like it, just push back your plate, and we’ll go to a restaurant.” On Thanksgiving Day, when she brought dinner into the dining room, her son and husband already had their coats and gloves on. That’s what you call low expectations! I think of that story every time I preach the Christmas message. We have low expectations. How many different ways can you tell the Christmas story? The plot doesn’t change, and the characters don’t change. So how do we get something fresh out of the Christmas story? This week, I encourage you to stop and smell the manger of Bethlehem. We will look at five major characters in the nativity and learn eternal lessons about what it means to love and obey God.

We will start with Mary. What we learn from Mary is that God chooses those who are available to Him. Whom would God select to be the mother of the Savior? God had to find somebody who was available. We find her story in Luke 1:26-28: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’”

Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of Jesus Christ? Mary exhibited four qualities of what it means to be available to God. First of all, Mary was pure. She was a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. When God is looking for somebody to use, He chooses those who are not necessarily the most gifted, the most talented, or the most beautiful, but those who are pure. Second, Mary believed God’s Word. In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth, her cousin, said about Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Mary believed what God said, and she acted accordingly. Third, Mary placed the glory of God above her own reputation. Mary knew she would suffer a blow to her reputation. After all, who was going to believe her? But she said to the angel in Luke 1:38, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Mary was willing to place the glory of God above her own reputation. Finally, Mary was willing to sacrifice that which was most important to her. She knew the consequences of being impregnated by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament law said if an engaged woman was unfaithful to her husband-to-be, she was to be stoned to death. To be available to God means to be willing to sacrifice what’s most important to you. Are you willing to do that? Every time you see Mary in a nativity scene, ask yourself: “Am I available to God? Am I keeping myself pure? Do I believe the promises of God? Am I willing to place God’s glory above my reputation? Am I willing to sacrifice that which is most important to me?” God uses those who are available.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Stop and Smell the Manger” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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