We are in the season of Advent. A time to ponder the mystery of Christ coming into the world. In the humble beginnings of a stable.
A few years ago my family and I were in Greyton, a beautiful country village tucked into a valley in the Overberg of the Western Cape of South Africa. We were celebrating Christmas in a small home church and I saw baby Jesus being laid in the manger of my heart.
For God to come into the world into the family of Joseph and Mary, at a time for them of change and journey, which left them to find refuge in a barn for the delivery of the Son of God: this turning point in the history of mankind makes us pause; this turning point requires great reflection…
What are the expectations around the birth of the King of all kings? If we had no stories at Sunday School to tell us, no cartoons or movies, no passing on to us as a child the stories of Christmas – on being asked where we think he may have been born, what would we say? Maybe:
A palace or castle, with the select doctors or midwives of the time.
The best hospital you could imagine with the most professional special care.
The cleanest, most hygienic of environments.
Everything 5 star. Everyone available at a mere murmur from Mary, rushing to her aid, to make sure the King of all kings comes into the world safe and sound to fulfil the greatest mission ever, the salvation of all human beings.
But no, and we read of it in the scripture. Allow time for the pondering of this most familiar story to linger in your mind as you think of the improbability of it all. The coming of the King of kings…
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
Because there was no room for them in the inn.”
No room for them in the inn. Born and placed in a manger.
noun: manger; plural noun: mangers
- a long trough from which horses or cattle feed.
Really? A long trough from which horses or cattle feed. Surely God could have organised better accommodation for the coming of his Son?
Unless we turn it all around and realise, the coming of the Son of God was always ordained to happen in the humble ways, in the unexpected ways, the ways not known to man. God chose to be born to the world in obscurity and hiddenness.
And the humble beginnings were foretold years before, and proclaimed to all who could see with the portent of a star in the heavens shining the way to the coming of salvation in the most beautiful God-Man we will ever know, Jesus Christ.
“For to us a child is born…” Isaiah 9:6
“…the greatest among you should be like the youngest…” Luke 22:27
The picture I had of Jesus being born in the manger of my heart comes back to me at this time. And I wonder, how is my heart a suitable manger for Jesus to be placed? How may Jesus come into the world through me at this time?
Is my heart a humble place for the Son of God to rest?
Is my heart a place of expectation for the birthing of something new?
A poem I wrote some time ago, explores how God uses unlikely places to bring about the miracle of his coming:
A baby knelt by strangers
Tip-touches starry universe
Wisdom lines his face
From creases of the birth.
God passes through
The legs of a woman
To grace the disdain
Of unlikely places.
He manifests weakness
Of the greatest strength,
In smallness of a womb.
“…the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Cor 1:25
As we approach the glad tidings of Advent, may we ponder these questions in our hearts:
How is my heart a resting place?
How is my heart alive to the new beginnings of God?
How is my heart a humble place for God to come afresh?
“…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…” 1 Peter 5:5
I ask Jesus to be at home in my heart. He uses the unexpected places to bring his revelation and new beginnings. We can be open to the new beginnings of God when we offer our hearts to him in this way, as a place to be filled by all of the newness of God.
And the light of God will shine over us like the star of Bethlehem to draw people to the coming of Christ in our lives.
As you listen to the chant of Hildegard of Bingen from “The origin of fire – Love”, allow time to ponder the questions above, as the fire of Holy Spirit breathes fresh revelation upon your heart: