There was nothing fancy or perfect about Jesus’ first bed. Luke’s Gospel tells us that after Mary gave birth to Jesus, she “laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). A manger was a wooden or sometimes stone container. It held hay or another kind of food for animals. Yet on the first Christmas, a manger held the child whose words have fed the whole world with spiritual food ever since. Jesus.
It brings me comfort to know that a manger was good enough for Jesus. I am thankful that by God’s grace, my heart is good enough for Jesus too. So is yours. Each Christmas reminds us that our hearts are the places where the God of heaven and earth, would like to be born. For this reason, I think the manger is a good image to reflect on as we begin to prepare for Christmas.
How do we get our manger ready for Jesus? How do we make room in our life for the coming of Christ? That is what the church season known as Advent is for. Advent starts this Sunday, December 2 and lasts until Christmas Eve. There are questions I like to ask myself during Advent. “Jesus, how are you calling me to love?” “Lord, as I listen to your Word, will you help me to hear how you are calling me to follow you?”
The good news is that you cannot really DO much to get a manger ready. It is a pretty simple object. Nothing needs to be fancy about it. A more helpful posture is to simply BE. Be open, be eager, be expectant for God to show up—and God will. We can practice being present over perfect. Being present can happen as we look for all the ways that God is on the move. We can look for glimpses of how God is bringing hope, joy, and compassion into the world. Our Advent sermon series this year, called Glimpses, will help us do just that.
A few days ago, a friend of mine named Lauren posted a picture on Facebook of her Christmas tree. She has two small children. The bottom half of the tree was completed covered with ornaments. Some of the branches had three or four ornaments. Meanwhile the top half of the tree, unreachable to little people, was almost bare. My friend commented that this tree, while maybe not the most attractive, was just right for her family.
When you and I offer our life to Jesus, his reaction is the same. Just right! God is less concerned with the look of our manger (do we have it all together?) and more excited when we are open, expectant, and eager for God to come and live in us. Jesus says in John 14:23, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Amen—and thanks be to God.
Preparing with you,