Last night the boys and I went to the Christmas Eve service at church. The pastor reminded us of the signs that told of that first Christmas. It wasn't a star in the sky or angels singing. The sign that the angels tell the shepherds to look for was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (no surprise there--even our children were swaddled when born) laying in a manger. There's the real sign--and a surprising one. The Son of God in an animal's feeder.
I grew up on a farm. Feed troughs tended to be noisy, dirty places, surrounded by manure and buzzing flies. They are no place for a baby. Especially a baby who is God incarnate. He should be born in a palace like the royalty He is; or at least a temple where the religious gather. But God was born in a barn. How many times did your parents ask you when growing up and you left the door open or some similar faux pas, "Where you born in a barn?" It's not a compliment. But such was the birth of Jesus.
That was the sign to look for: the manger. It is a sign of hope. A palatial birth would have meant God came for those in power. A temple birth would have meant God came for the righteous. But a manger means He came for everyone. Princes and shepherds, the righteous and the heathen, the Jew and the foreigner. God put on flesh to be like us all--and so all could come kneel before His infant bed.
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This morning I found myself sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree lights crying a little. The boys had just left for Wisconsin with their mom. I was alone on Christmas Day. I knew it was coming. I had already done a holiday alone, so I thought I could handle it. Butt after they left some of the emotions hit. I'm good about being in solitude; apparently being alone is still a struggle for me.
But that manger birth is also a hope-filled reminder that I'm not alone. God came to earth. Emmanuel: God With Us. He knows what it is like to walk in human skin, experiencing all that we experience. There is solace in that knowledge.
I have a hard time grasping that fact sometimes, though. Obviously. If I had that fact internalized, I wouldn't ever feel alone. I guess that's why I need all these reminders. Advent and Christmas. The tree and it's lights. The carols on the radio. The friends who send an encouraging word through facebook. All are reminders that I'm not alone. Jesus was born. God is with us. Amen.