“What did you go into the desert to see?” said Jesus.
John the Baptist, imprisoned in Herod’s jail, had lost faith and wondered whether he was in danger of losing his life for nothing. So his disciples were sent to Jesus to check whether Jesus was true. Through them, Jesus urged John to hold firm and to trust what had been reported to him of the work of Jesus.
What we know, and what John may have guessed was, that his cell would eventually be the place of his death. There was no breaking out of this prison, rather it was the place for patient endurance. Under this pressure his faith almost failed him.
But Jesus words were that through perseverance blessing would come. Some prison bars are not meant to be broken but endured.
Similarly the people who had trekked into the desert to see Jesus, didn’t come to see some fine landscaped garden nor some well-dressed nobleman. They came to see a prophet.
Our surroundings can shape us profoundly. A prison can make us hopeless and helpless just as the desert can shrivel us, but if we learn to see things right we might catch the unexpected. Just as the prison a strong endurer makes, so the desert a prophet.
So the manger hosts God Almighty.
And the cross a saviour.