OLPH Parish | Advent | The Nativity Scene and the Trough

OLPH Parish | Advent | The Nativity Scene and the Trough

Our Theme for this Week: The Nativity Creche.

As we imagine the scene of Jesus’ birth, we reflect on one of the characters and what they offered the Lord and learned from this great miracle.

My favorite advent tradition is to cozy up under a blanket next to the nativity scene each morning, light my prayer candle and fill-up pages of a journal with my hopes for the coming of sweet baby Jesus. With a toddler around, this tradition will look very different this year. She will playfully rearrange the animals, try to eat the moss and the hay, and run away with the baby Jesus leaving the manger empty (as it should be) until Christmas Eve.

During this prayer time last Advent, I stumbled upon a reflection of the spiritual significance of the manger from Father Michael Van Sloun and I felt very compelled to share it with my parish family. It has deepened my devotion to the nativity scene, and hopefully will bless your meditation and prayer with it as you spot the manger on display in someone’s front lawn, in our church, or as you set up the model on your very own mantel. Please read and enjoy! 🙂

When the child Jesus was born, his mother Mary laid him in a manger (Lk 2:7). The word “manger” comes from the Latin word munducare which means “to eat.” A manger or crib is a wooden or stone feeding trough or food box that holds hay for larger farm animals like cattle, horses, and donkeys. The animals can walk up to a manger at any time, and then spend long, leisure hours chomping away, chewing and slowly re-chewing their cud. Once laid there, an angel told the shepherds that they would find their newborn Messiah and Lord “lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). They went in haste and found the child in the feeding trough and they feasted their eyes on him (Lk 2:16).

Jesus was not laid in a manger in Bethlehem by accident. Not only does Bethlehem mean “house of bread,” the manger also serves as a major spiritual symbol. Animals go to the manger for physical food, but with Jesus lying on the hay, we can go to the manger for spiritual food. Jesus has an infinite storehouse of nourishment available, and we can approach him any time and never go hungry. Jesus feeds us with Word and Sacrament, his gospel and the Eucharist. Jesus wants us to devour his word (Jer 15:16; Ez 3:1; Rev 10:9-10), chew on it, slowly ruminate on its meaning, swallow and digest it, and make it part of the fabric of our being. Jesus’ Word is like no other food, it has the power to save our souls (Jas 1:21). Not only that, the infant in the feeding trough is the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35), the true bread come down from heaven, and whoever eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6:51). If a person wants to be spiritually well-fed, it is important to read Scripture and receive the Eucharist often. The manger is a momentous sign that Jesus is sustenance for us. The shepherds feasted first. Now it is our turn. Jesus born on the first Christmas is food for our souls.

As we wait for our trough to be filled with the presence of our Lord and Savior on Christmas morning, how can we prepare for this feast so that Jesus can totally satisfy our every need?

Van Sloun, Michael A., Rev. “I Know Jesus was Born in a Manger, but Why is That Important and What Does it Mean?” Rediscover:, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 2004,


Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.