Being a city girl, for me the word manger was synonymous with bed or cradle. No one ever explained to me that a manger is a box that holds feed for animals. In other words, it is a feeding tough. Our word manger comes from the French word manger which means “to eat.” In Bethlehem the manger in which Mary placed her Son would most probably have been carved out of stone.
As I learned these facts about the manger my earlier imaginings began to grow. I now picture Joseph carefully cleaning out the feeding trough worrying about his young wife and the responsibility he had to protect her and the child. I see him gathering the best, clean straw to make a soft nesting place for the baby. I picture Mary swaddled the baby and she and Joseph praying over the child. According to the law of Moses it was unlawful for a man to witness child birth, but if no one else was available perhaps Joseph had to serve as midwife and nurse so that he was the one who first placed the baby in the manger.
Whoever did it, I doubt that at the moment the significance of what they did registered with them. They were in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, placing The Bread of Life on a feeding trough.
I can’t think of that manger cradling the Bread of Life now without being reminded of the weekly feeding tough—the Sacrament table—I visit to partake of the Bread of Life. As I ponder on it, I can hear the words, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger" (John 6:35). "He that eatheth of this bread shall live for ever" (John 6:58), and I am reminded that the Bethlehem manger offers eternal sustenance to all who "partake of it" (D&C 20:77).