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Sniffing Mangers—And Other Ways of Recognizing Our Savior

Dec 24, 2017 02:59PM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith

I pulled my daughter’s lion head rabbit, Sookie, out of the cage for a few minutes to give her a little exercise. Plopping her down in the center of the floor, I expected her to explore a little, to venture out while she had the chance. Eventually, she did wander around a bit, but first she came over to me and twitched her little nose. If you have spent any time with rabbits, you will know that besides their amazingly adorable back feet, fully loaded with stomping power, are their little noses that move nonstop as if an involuntary muscle. Sookie was checking me out. She wanted to make sure I was a smell she knew. Was I safe? After giving me a full sniff-a-thon, she hopped around with a little more umph. She was reassured. While I was there, she was free to be the rabbit God made her to be.

Having several species (dogs, tree frogs, and the bunny) in my home this year, we observe our animals with great fascination. One thing is for certain: They all see us as provision. They receive their meals and have their waste removed by us. For the mammals, we brush their hair/fur. Because we tend to them, each in their different ways, they are free to be the creatures Adam first named them to be all those years ago in the Garden of Eden.

When the mealworms are dropping into the dish and the water/pond refreshed, our amphibian friends know today is another day they will thrive. When the bunny smells that hay going into her drop tray, she is at liberty to nibble and eventually makes her way over to the litter tray (yes, bunnies are litter-trained!). Our dogs know that when my husband sits down in his chair after dinner, they can soothe themselves by licking his feet.

So, it’s not too large of a stretch for me to imagine the stable animals gathering around the manger, wondering what that noisy creature was amidst the hay and confusion. I bet the goat, sheep, donkeys, cows, or whichever barn animals called that stable their home, took one curious glance or whiff and recognized their Creator in those swaddling clothes.

I bet they sensed:

peace on earth,

good will toward men,



hope had come,

God with us (Immanuel).

To be fair, the Bible doesn’t expound on the animal perspective. Apparently, that was left to our imaginations, but we do know Baby Jesus was lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.

Luke 2:7, ESV

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The animals may have recognized the Christ, but here is what Isaiah says about Israel before the Savior came.

Isaiah 1:1-4, ESV

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: "Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.

The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."

"Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged" [emphasis mine].

I think we are wise to put our own names in there this Christmas and see if the shoe fits, so to speak. It’s an intimidating but essential exercise.

Does it fit? Using the terminology directly from this scripture, here are some key questions to ask ourselves this Christmas to really confirm whether or not we know our Savior:

  • Have I rebelled against God?
  • Do I know Him?
  • Is He the Owner of my life, my Master?
  • Do I understand who He really is?
  • Am I continuing in sin on my own, without a solution? Without yielding my life to His salvation?
  • Are my “dealings” reflections of the Christ, whom I put my trust in?
  • Have I forsaken Him in one or more areas of my life, picking and choosing where I seek His counsel?
  • Do I seek His counsel?
  • Do I despise Him? (Deny Him? Resent Him? Dishonor Him?)
  • Is He a relationship I have shut the door on, controlling when and where He has access—or no access at all?

These are important questions because they are indications of whether or not we know our Savior.

If we believe in His name, we are His people. The Bible is very clear that there are no distinctions other than believer and nonbeliever. Even the line between Jew and Greek (Gentile) is now gone, assuming both believe in the Messiah already come.

Galatians 3:22-29, ESV

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

But if we are approaching the manger this season and looking for Jesus, sniffing like Sookie the rabbit, but not quite certain the baby in that manger is fully ours, may I suggest we pray something along the lines of this?

Jesus, I want to know You. I want You to be Lord of my life. I believe that I know You __________ (a little, not at all, well), but/and I want to know You more. When I read over Isaiah 1, I fear there are some areas in my life where I deny You, try to cut off Your access, even despise You. There are places in my life where I do not seek Your counsel or Your Word. Help me know You better each day, to pray to You, to read Your Word, and to invite You in. I want to know when I celebrate Your birth and infant slumber in that manger, that I recognize You as my Savior, and more importantly, that You recognize me and call me Child, Believer, Friend. I want to love You more. Amen.

If this is your sincere prayer, God will honor it. I promise you. The Bible says He is faithful to His word. If you are uncertain and seek the Child-King-Sacrifice-Savior in that manger, you will find Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-13, ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart"[emphasis mine].

Merry Christmas! The Lord has come!


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.


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