DECEMBER 4: What's in a manger?
It is desire that compels us to build up and keep up holiday traditions.
Near the end of the calendar year, maybe we look forward to hosting family or friends around a Thanksgiving meal.
Some deeply want Hanukkah to honor the state of Israel and religious freedoms.
Kwanzaa was introduced in the 1960’s to help those in the African diaspora maintain a strong connection to heritage.
These are holidays and observances to fulfill something so many want.
When Jesus was born, there were reports of angels announcing he would fulfill some remarkable wants. Lofty, but appealing. Who wouldn’t want unstoppable joy or certain hope or unifying peace?
Christmas might make kids happy. Christmas might help celebrate the close of another year. Christmas might satisfy religious practice.
But joy? Hope? Peace?
Perhaps it’s because we know these deepest desires won’t be met that Christmas has been propped up to satisfy more “attainable” desires. We closed off certain longings in our hearts.
The invitation today is for you to think about it more deeply again. To access that ache again. To dream a little more again. To re-open your heart’s greatest investigation.
French philosopher Simone Weil once said there only two things that can crack open the human heart: beauty and suffering.
Beauty can bring a stunning sense of awe. Maybe there’s more than what I know.
Suffering can bring a stunning sense of urgency. Life is fragile.
Beauty and suffering? Sounds like child birth.
So, I invite us to think about that manger. Imagine being in that little cave, maybe you’re a shepherd, or curious little girl from the village that heard a baby crying and peaked in. Close your eyes and conjure up some depiction of that moment. Doesn’t have to be historically accurate. All you need is that simple, grungy feeding trough and a little baby boy wrapped in fabric…and you.
Now, imagine a familiar voice whispering in your ear out of nowhere, “God is with us…God’s here…the baby.”
Then, imagine being flooded with confidence, even for a moment, that this is true. God is actually with us. I wonder what you’d say.
“Can I hold him?”
I think some might say, “Why?” Why is God here, like this, right now?
And maybe the voice would repeat the promises of Joy, Hope, Peace.
But if the voice only said one word, you can bet it would be “LOVE”.
One of Jesus’ followers, John, later wrote this about Jesus being here.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.*
PRAYER FOR TODAY
“God, I know I need love and I experience some of it through people. I want to know today that, however more deeply I need to know love, you are there to meet it.”
*John’s biography of Jesus, chapter 3, verses 16–17, emphasis mine