Posted by: geolocke | 2015/12/24

Christmas Eve 2015

It is still dark outside as I complete Morning Prayer. The dogs are asleep, one next to me and the other at my feet. The glow of the advent candles adds soft flickering shadows to the Crucifix hanging on the wall of my home chapel. To the right of the Altar is a small Nativity scene set on a stand. I keep this Nativity scene up all year-long. It serves to remind me that the Nativity is the “alpha” to the “omega” of the Crucifix in the story of Christ’s physical life among us.

These physical objects in my Chapel help me focus my thoughts and prayers on the different aspects of the wondrous story we participate in. It is a paradoxical Love story; without a beginning or end, it is both ancient and still being created, and throughout it all the Love is always present, always strong, and never-fading. Just as I keep photographs of my family on the wall, so I can look at them and remember them, so too these objects help me focus my thoughts, my prayers and my thanksgiving on this story.

All around me people are putting up decorations, physical objects that (for them) represent an idea of what Christmas means to them. Our house is also decorated for the season. We have two small trees with lights and ornaments, and we have lights in the windows and ribbons and bows and strands of garland, and several other Nativity scenes spread throughout the house. All of them are artificial, all of them are just physical representations of an idea of Christmas.

The dogs break into my thought. Although asleep, they are both dreaming; their legs twitching and they both bark in their sleep, as if they are chasing something in the yard. Then the little one next to me wakes up, stretches and sighs, before snuggling back up next to me for comfort before falling back to sleep. My thoughts turn back to my meditation, but now I look for the real things that all these objects represent.

I have a small print of a painting of the nativity (another object) that I pick up and study. The painting is by an artist from the 1600’s. It is called “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Frey Juan Bautista Manío. In the print, the Christ Child is laying in the manger wrapped in the swaddling cloth and a shepherd kneels and kisses the child’s hand while Mary kneels beside them in a prayerful pose and the ox and the ass look on from behind. It is a perfect portrait of a tender moment in the Bible’s Nativity Story. It is too perfect.

I’ve lived with animals all my life and have visited barns and stables where the smells of the animals and their waste permeates everything. In addition to the stabled beasts, there are insects and rodents, birds, cats, and dogs to be found, all creatures of God’s Creation. It is into a stable such as this that the Holy Family arrives.

Forced from their own home by powers out of their control, they have traveled during a time not of their choosing to a place not of their choosing, and finding that there is no place for them to stay upon their arrival, they are directed to the stable behind the inn where Mary gives birth to their son, Jesus, in humble circumstances among the creatures of God’s creation.

Jesus, comes to us, not as a royal child born in a palace with gleaming walls, but as a poor homeless couple’s child born in a stable with filled stalls. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is born in a stable with the other creatures of his creation, and it is only fitting that the first to come and honor him were the shepherds who were tending to their own sheep.

The little one who comes to us as a helpless child is first greeted by shepherds, the only gift they have to offer is their adoration. How could they have known that he was the very one who would grow up to become their (our) shepherd? The Magi who come later honor Jesus with worldly gifts as a foreshadowing of his kingship. Little could they have imagined that his throne would be a cross. And what about the innkeeper? When he offered the only space available to the expecting family, a place among animals instead of among humanity, did he realize that the child to be born that night would one day go and prepare a room for him in the kingdom of Heaven?

This Christmas, as we sing carols and dream of presents and food, as we celebrate with family and friends and even with our pets, let us pause to remember the humble real-world circumstances into which our Savior and Lord was born. Let us remember like the shepherds to adore Him whole-heartedly as our humble shepherd. Like the magi, let us present to Him and his Church kingly gifts of our time, our talent and our treasure. And like the innkeeper, let us make room for him in our hearts, no matter how messy they might seem to us now.

Christ, our Shepherd and our King, will surely set about working to help us clean up the stable of our heart, if only we answer the door and let Him in.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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Responses

  1. George this is magnificent! God’s choicest blessings to you and Lottie! Our friendship is one of His choicest blessings to me! Marguerita Sent from my iPhone

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