At the manger
Who is at the manger? Who do you see there? Are you there … and so many others who desperately need to know what only this scene can awaken in their hearts?
Email brings news of a child in our town, three years old, who wanders from the house and drowns in a retention pond in the back yard. The parents cannot go back to the house. How can it ever be home again?
Will you, I’m asked, will your church give money to help them move into another house where healing …a long time from now … might be possible? I respond, ‘Where do we send the check?’
Television brings a video of 46 children, orphans, pleading for the powerful nations of the world to send relief and carry them to safety. This may be our last video, they say. We are dying. And they are.
I want to see them at the manger scene, the parents of that three-year old, the 46 children and every blessed soul who struggles to keep them safe, fed and alive as barrel bombs drop from the sky.
I want them to be included, drawn inside the cave or stable or wherever it was that Jesus was really born. I want to see them in the scene, included in, no longer out in the cold. I want them to rub shoulders with the shepherds, these characters of questionable repute and unpleasant odor who, despite all this, are the first to see and know.
They are included in, entering the place where the warmth of God is known … and awakened in their own hearts. And there, they are given our chief human dignity: to bear within the Love who who lies in his mother’s arms.
The mystery of their lives is known at the manger: They, too, as surely as Christ, himself, were born to bear the Love awakened in them as they are included in the great circle of God’s embrace.
We hate being excluded, to be on the outside looking in. It fans our fear that we can never have and know the Love and Life we crave from the moment we burst our mother’s womb. Something in us dies, bleeds and grows bitter when we are kept outside that which we know we most need.
At the manger, this is all reversed, shepherds are included … invited in from the cold and given first place. They are stand-ins for all of us who are invited to come in … and know what the heart needs to know, awakened and filled with the wonder of bearing the very life of God.
The manger scene is incomplete if we do not see and know ourselves there, and the children of Aleppo, and the parents of that three- year old … and the three-year old, too. For nothing is lost to this Love.
All of them included, all of us welcomed into the warmth of the Love who was and is and always will be.
Pr. David L. Miller