The translation team in Nigeria, Africa, was translating the Bible into the Mbe language. When they came to the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2, verse 7, the English text reads, “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger…”
The translators used the Mbe word “okpang” for manger. John, the translating consultant, asked the Mbe translators what that meant. They drew a picture on the whiteboard of a cradle hung by ropes like Mbe mothers use for their newborns. John asked them to check their translator notes and they saw that the manger referred to an animal feeding trough. The Mbe translators said, “We have always used the word ‘okpang.’ We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”
John pointed out that it wasn’t about following tradition but being accurate to the original Biblical text. He asked what they used to feed their animals. The said they used old baskets that had no other good use – they called these old worn out baskets “edzabri.” John said that this was the word they should use. John told them to read the text to some Mbe listeners using this word. They did, and the people were deeply moved. The newborn Jesus was laid by his parents in an animal feeding basket!
This is the amazing story of Christmas, that God humbled Himself by coming to us, being born as one of us and laid in an animal feeding container for a cradle! He would grow up and some 33 years later humble Himself even further by dying on a criminal’s cross. In doing so He paid the price and penalty for our sinfulness so that we can be in a right relationship with God that is both personal and eternal.
Through the centuries this amazing story of Jesus has been called the Good News (which is what the word “gospel” means). But this Good News, like any good news, is truly good news only when we respond appropriately to it; it has to be good news for YOU and for ME!
This is the way to have a truly “merry” Christmas, to take Christmas personally! Think about it: God humbled Himself for us to such an extent that He was born as one of us and laid in an animal feeding trough! Wow! That’s the wonder of Christmas!
The angel said to the shepherds on a hillside outside of Bethlehem, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)
Credit goes to Wyciffe Bible Translators and their article by Bob Creson for this story.