Wednesday, December 12, 2012

IN A MANGER

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute."
~St. Augustine

When our children were young, we had a tradition of taking them to see the Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral. We purchased our tickets early in the season to reserve seats close to the stage. The parade of live animals, the angels soaring above us, and the beautiful music brought the meaning of the season to life.

But  the condensed, dolled up presentation of the birth of Christ couldn't adequately portray the raw and less attractive side of this historic event. Like a young teenager, accompanied by her new husband, travelling during her ninth month of pregnancy. Because Caesar Augustus had called for a census of the entire Roman world.

Perhaps it was the long trek that triggered her first labor pains. Imagine the fear, disappointment, and confusion she may have felt when there was no decent room for her to rest. And then, to realize she would give birth to her first child in a smelly stable. How could this be? Certainly God wouldn't want his Son to be born in these conditions. I wonder if Mary and Joseph began to question and to doubt.

I have given birth. In a hospital. With medical staff. And drugs. Even then it wasn't pretty. I can only imagine her experience, especially at such a tender age.

I like to display Nativity scenes throughout our home at Christmas. I enjoy seeing the life-sized versions in front of local churches and town squares. But I wonder what Mary and Joseph would say if they were to walk among us today. Perhaps they'd giggle and point at our creche scenes as they recalled what it was really like that life-changing night. Frightening. Messy. Smelly. Confusing. Unnerving. Exhausting. Miraculous.

 If Jesus was walking this earth today, I think we'd find Him at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a halfway house, or an AIDS hospice . Not curled up on a couch, by a pretty tree, sipping Starbucks, and dreaming of a white Christmas. That's me.

I have so much to learn. May I never forget. It's not all about stockings on the mantle, presents under the tree, nutcrackers and snowmen, or twinkling lights. There is nothing wrong with these things. I believe God wants us to enjoy ourselves, especially this time of year. But there's more to the Christmas story. It was the breath of heaven in the form of a newborn baby, to a teenage mom in a stable after an exhausting journey. The Lamb of God was placed in a feeding trough for animals and visited by smelly shepherds. This is how God came down to earth.

"The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation."
~J. I. Packer

"While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. There were shepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified."
~Luke 2:6-9, The Message  

  

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