[Scripture] [Luke 2: 1- 7]“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” [Introduction] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the 10th session of the message of the cross, and I will explain to you about the reason why Jesus was laid in a manger. The Lord died to redeem the sinners from their sins and opened the way of salvation for us by resurrecting on the third day and breaking the authority of death. He moved us from darkness to light, led us from the authority of the devil to the side of God, and guided us from hell to the kingdom of heaven. Until He accomplished salvation, the whole life of Jesus was fulfilled by the providence of God according to strict rules of the spiritual realm. He was killed for the sinners and was hung on a tree to redeem the sinners from the curse, and He shed His blood because there is forgiveness only by the shedding of blood. Moreover, from Jesus’ coming to this earth until His crucifixion, God’s providence is embedded in each process. Jesus was born in a stable of an animal, was laid in a manger, and lived a poor life. When He was crucified, He was whipped all over His body, wore a crown of thorns on His head, and was nailed through His hands and feet. He was hung on the cross naked. The garment He was wearing was divided into four pieces by the Romans soldiers, and His tunic was taken by one soldier by casting lots. Also, He shed all His water and blood being pierced in His side by a Roman soldier. God’s providence is contained in each of these processes, and it is God’s grace and favor, and the providence to bless us.When we take the blessings with faith contained in His providence, we can enjoy those blessings in our lives.From today, I will explain the blessings God has given us through Jesus. I hope you will clearly understand the love of God the Father who has given His one and only Son, and the love of the Lord who sacrificed His everything for the sinners. [Main] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, viewing audiences, today’s scripture talks about the birth of Jesus. The Virgin Mary who bore Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit went to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph. At that time, all lodging in Bethlehem was full of people and there was no more room. So, Mary gave birth in a stable of an inn. Because there was no place to lay Jesus who was wrapped in swaddling, He was laid in a manger, which is a vessel that contains the feed for animals. Normally, babies are born in a cozy room and laid on a comfortable bed. But why was Jesus, the one and only Son of God the Almighty, born in a stable and laid in a manger? This is also God’s providence to bless us. Ecclesiastes 3:18 says, “I also thought, ‘As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.'” When God tested men, they were no different than animals. Upon hearing this, some might wonder, “Why is it that men are like animals?” But if you think about the evilness of men, it is often worse than animals. The predators like lions or leopards do not usually kill other animals unnecessarily unless they are hungry or their life is threatened. Also, even among the animals, there are some that do not change their mates for their entire life, and will sacrifice themselves for their young. The dogs in your houses are faithful to their masters, and they too will sacrifice their lives for their masters sometimes. But, how about men, the lord of all creatures? They engage in wars to fulfill their desires. They kill women, children, or sick people indiscriminately. It is difficult to find true love even among the families and neighbors. The divorce rate is constantly on the rise, and they fight, sue, or even kill between parents, children, and among brothers or sisters. If it is not beneficial for them selves, they betray their parents, teachers, or even old friends. Often we find people who return good with evil. People buy and sell other people, and sometimes, they even sell their own children. Even young students form gangs and do things that we cannot even mention. In the news everyday, we hear so many miserable things that are not even imaginable. Seeing all these things, we cannot say men are better than animals. Originally, God made men in His good and holy image. But after Adam’s fall, men became sinners, and they lost the good image of God. Their spirit died and they came to live only with soul and body, so they became like animals that have only soul and body. As their hearts were stained with more and more sins, following their lust and desires, they came to commit so many kinds of sins. How can a man like this, who became just like animals, enter into the holy kingdom of heaven? They can go into the heavenly kingdom only when they recover the duty of men and become God’s children. The reason why Jesus came to this earth and was laid in a manger was to redeem and save the mankind who were no different than animals. John 6:51 says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” “Men eating the bread that came down from heaven” means keeping the word of God in their heart. Just as our body can live only with food, our spirit can also live only with spiritual food. Jesus is the Word who came to this earth in flesh. Jesus, who is the word, came to this earth and became the food of life for mankind who are like animals. Mankind could now recover their duty and the lost image of God. Jesus was laid in a manger to let us realize this fact.Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, then, how can we get away from an animal-like life and gain true life? What is the way for us to do our duty and live as a man? Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” It is said the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments. Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the LORD is to hate evil.” To keep God’s commandments is to keep the commands recorded in the Bible, the word of God. There are so many commands such as “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, do not envy, do not hate, do not get drunk, keep the Sabbath, keep your vows, avoid all kinds of evil, and cast off arguments.” We should not do what the Bible tells us not to do and do what it tells us to do, keep what it tells us to keep, and cast off what it tells us to cast off. To keep the commands in the Bible like this is to keep God’s commandments. But there are many people who confess with their lips, “I believe in God, I fear God.” but they do not keep God’s commands. There are also people who teach God’s words, but they themselves do not keep God’s words. There are still other people who say, “How can we keep so many commands? It is too hard to be a Christian,” when they hear they should practice the words of the Bible. But God does not give us those commands to give us hard time. Even the parents in the world ask many things of their children. “Study well. Eat a balanced diet. Be polite. Keep yourself clean.” Are these things to give a hard time to the children? Of course not! Parents ask these things for the benefit of their children. Only because you love your children, you cannot teach them saying things like, “Studying is difficult, so just play around. It is burdensome to clean the house, so just be dirty.” If you truly love your children, you should teach them to do the duty of man. Our God the Father also commands us to do the things that we should obviously do as men. What God commands us not to do is necessary for us not to have trials and tests and not to fall into hell. What He tells us to do is needed for us to receive blessings and answers, and finally go to the kingdom of heaven. Even your children obey your words if they love and trust you. In the same way, if you love God, who has given us such great love, and the Lord who was crucified for us, then it is not difficult for us to obey God’s words. I hope you will realize the providence in the Son of God being born in a shabby stable and laid in a manger. This way, I hope you will fear God from the depth of you heart and recover the lost image of God completely. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and is the one with God the Creator. John 1:3 says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 3:35 says, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” Likewise, Jesus, who is the master of all things, came to this wretched earth and was born in a lowly stable of an animal, leaving behind all the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Not only when He was born, but throughout His whole life, He lived a life in poverty. As said in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” He moved around here and there with any permanent home to preach the gospel and heal the sick. Sometimes, He was thirsty, hungry, or tired, but He preached the word without resting. It is not that He did not have the ability to lead a rich life. Jesus made wine out of water and performed a miracle to feed more than five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish, then taking up twelve baskets of what remained.Also, as He commanded, when Peter caught a fish, a coin was in the mouth of the fish. If He used His power for Himself, He could have led more than a rich life. But what is the reason that He led a poor life?2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”The rich Jesus suffered poverty to give us the blessings of richness. Men did not have poverty from the beginning. When they were in the Garden of Eden, everything was abundant, and the ground produced rich fruits, so they could just eat from the trees. But after Adam’s fall, everything was cursed along with men, and the earth began to produce thorns and thistles, so that men could gain food by toil and sweat of their brow. The reason why mankind came to suffer from poverty is the curse that fell on them due to Adam’s sin. Of course, being poor itself is not a sin, but it is still a part of the curse that fell on us due to Adam’s sin. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, but some people say it is not right to ask God for material blessings. But in the Bible, there are many promises that God will make us rich. Also, those who feared God and obeyed His words such as Abraham, the patriarch of faith, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Daniel, led abundant and blessed lives. We should also be able to enjoy the blessing of richness by the grace of the Lord who has redeemed us from poverty. Of course, we should not ask for our own desires but only the glory of God. James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” If you have faith, how will you spend your money after you receive financial blessings? You will not indulge in luxury but help the orphans and widows, do missionary works, and build churches. You will use it for saving souls. You can give glory to God by receiving blessings, and you can offer back to God the blessings you received, so you can store up more rewards in the kingdom of heaven. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” It goes without saying that parents want to give their children what they desire. Our God the Father who is full of love also wants to give whatever His children ask with faith. But we cannot receive blessings just by asking God, “Father bless me.” There is a condition. For example, 3 John 1:2 says, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” We can see that us to be prosperous and healthy, our soul should be well. Here, the ‘soul being well’ means recovering the lost image of God by living according to God’s words. Also, Deuteronomy 28:2 says, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:” Those who obey God’s words this way will be blessed whether they come in or go out. They will lend and borrow from none. They will be the head but not the tail. They will always be at the top, never at the bottom. But even those who live by the word of God must sow the seed with faith to receive blessings. They harvest the fruit of blessing as they sow the seeds. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” If you try to reap without sowing, you are violating the law of God and mocking God. When farmers farm, if they sow beans, they reap beans. If they sow rice, they reap rice. Also, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Even if the farmer has 100 acres of land, if he sows in only 10 acres, he cannot reap more than that. Even if you have great faith, you will reap much by sowing much. If you sow little, you can reap only little.But God does not only give what we sow. He gives us pressed down, shaken together, and running over, and as our soul is prosperous, thirty, sixty, or a hundred times more. Also, if He has us reap after a long time, He gives us much more for the same amount we had sown than He would have given back to us earlier. It is like a bean sprout grows very quickly but expensive fruits or ginseng has to wait for a long time until it can be harvested. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, some people feel sorry that they do not have anything to sow before God even though they want to give. But the rule that those who sow much will reap much is not about the amount or quantity of the offerings. It is not the money itself that God receives but the aroma of our heart in it. God knows exactly with what kind of heart we give to Him, with how much love and faith. Mark 12 talks about a widow who gave two small copper coins. Jesus was looking at the people who were putting offerings into the treasury, and when He saw the widow who gave two small copper coins, He praised her that she gave more than all others. He said, “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” It was the case with the widow in Zarephath. She cooked bread with the little bit of flour and oil she had and gave it to Elijah. This was very minor in a physical sense, but it was as great as her life itself since she was going through a severe, long drought. God received this offering gladly and blessed her and her son so that their food did not run out until the drought was over. If you remember that God receives not the amount of your offering but the aroma of your heart contained in it, you cannot say, “I am so poor that I don’t have anything to sow.” There are many testimonies of our members who have received blessings after offering to God with all their heart. Some of them had to rely on charity works for some time, but later they received so much in blessing that they now offer millions of won in tithes. When they sowed with all their faith and strength even in difficult situations, God opened the way of blessings wondrously. Some testify that they offered their monthly income as devotional service offering, and they had double of that amount as income next month. There are some others who sold their real estate, often at a much higher price than the market price, which had not been sold for a long time. Of course, He does not only give material blessings because you sow money. Even if He does not give you materially, the true blessing is the blessing of your soul. Cornelius, who feared God and helped the poor very much being a Gentile, received the blessing of his family’s salvation through Peter the apostle. A woman called Dorcas who did many good works and charity works died but was brought back to life by prayer. Both spiritual and material blessings are bestowed through Jesus Christ not only on this kind of people but also on everybody who sows with faith. [Conclusion] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, viewing audiences, today, I told you about the providence of Jesus being laid in a manger and going through poverty. The reason why Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God, was born in a stable and laid in a manger meant for animals is that He became the food of life to the mankind who is no different than animals. By this grace of Jesus, we can fear God and keep His commandments, so that we can live as a man. Also, the reason why Jesus, the master of all things, led a poor life on this earth was to make us rich. I hope you will realize this providence, recover the whole duty of man, and dwell within the grace of the Lord who redeemed us from poverty. I pray in the name of the Lord that you will receive both spiritual and material blessings and give glory to God greatly.