Sunday, December 20, 2015

Away in the Manger

Left to its own devices, the church tends to make the ugly beautiful (like the cross) and the mundane extraordinary (like the manger).  We are more comfortable with a shiny and sanitized Lord than the reality of the messes of life.  I count myself in that "we".

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the start of the tradition of the creche.  Moving the Christmas service outside to accommodate the crowds, he had a simple manger constructed and brought in cattle and a donkey.  So overcome was he with the humility of a King in the manger, that he preached with tears running down his cheeks.

It's probably time, don't you think, to look closely and see the hay mixed with chicken feathers and bits of rocks and mud.  It's time to feel the crude construction of a trough meant for an animal, not a newborn.  It's time hear the braying of the donkey and rustling of the animals as they settle in for the night.  It's time to smell, not the sweet baby scent or even the rustic scent of new hay, but rather, the stench of the assembled livestock.  I don't really want Jesus sleeping there or Mary and Joseph having to watch their step when they get up in the night to care for their child.

I like a tidy manger.  But I am, quite literally, eternally grateful that Jesus is a King of the messes, as well.  Especially the messes.  There is hope for me only because He isn't afraid to get His hands dirty - and He proved from His very first moments.  Apparently a stable is a perfect nursery after all.

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