Monday, December 24, 2018
We can imagine the manger in any way we choose: perhaps a small rest in a cold, wooden barn, or a hard pallet for a soft newborn. I choose this year to imagine it as warm comfort and a circle of love.
Advent has been an unusual journey for me this year. Just two days after it began, I had my right knee replaced. It might not seem like a big deal. Thousands of people have it done every day. But it’s a big deal when it’s your knee.
I knew what to expect from my surgery and healing process. What I didn’t expect is that the time, coincidental with Advent, would take me to a new place in the heart of Jesus.
You see, what I had planned on was my surgeon’s expertise and my own determination. Like Mary and Joseph, I had set out wholeheartedly, knowing where I had to go and why.
But I had taken an inadequate measure of my vulnerability.
I had not considered my need for a compassionate stable owner; for the warm, living breath of other beings, for the wonder of shepherds, or the songs of angels to lift me up to my hopes for wholeness. Still these came to me in the most wonderful ways!
After an unexpected complication, I was welcomed at our nursing facility for a slightly longer stay than planned. It was my stable on a night that turned out chillier and longer than expected.
My sisters, family and friends – both near and far – breathed their comforting prayers over me, day after day. I saw that holy vapor rising even when I struggled through the first nights with pain or uncertainty. One even brought her prayers crocheted into a shawl under whose warmth I sought my healing.
People did all the things for me that I forgot I would be unable to do, all the time assuring me how well I was doing. Nurses, physicians and amazingly compassionate aides lifted me up – literally and figuratively – with hope and encouragement.
We may not think to find a shepherd’s smile or an angel’s song in such ordinary things as a cup of tea, a Payday candy bar, a soothing towelette, a warm pot pie, a vase of flowers, or a pan of kugel.
We may forget to recognize the heavenly host in a phone call, a card, a peek in the door to see what small service is needed.
But this is how God comes to us. This is the real Advent. It isn’t on a calendar.
Good people gave me many gifts through my Advent journey, the greatest of which was this: a crystal recognition of how much we need one another – even in the simplest of ways. No gesture of companionship or compassion is too small to foster the promise of healing and hope.
Nothing is truly born in isolation from love.
Our human fragility can be an uncomfortable companion, or it can be that just and relentless teacher whom we appreciate only after graduation.
I come to this Christmas Eve with a grateful desire to be more aware of the journeys of those beside me; to reach out my hand with prayer, compassion and help – to be a manger for the birth of everyday miracles. This was the enduring gift of this blessed Advent.
As we close this holy season, we each may want to consider the “manger” within us. Warm? Circled in light? Open to Angel songs? What welcome will “Christ in Every Person” find in me? How has God brought me to the moment of Christmas?
“We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth
which God the Father has borne
and never ceases to bear in all eternity….
But if it takes not place in me,
what avails it?
Everything lies in this,
that it should take place in me.”
~ Meister Eckhart
Music: Emanuel ~ Tim Manion (Lyrics below)
Baby born in a stall,
Long ago now and hard to recall
Cold wind, darkness and sin
Your welcoming from us all.
How can it be true
A world grown so cold now,
How can it be new
Sorrow’s end; God send,
Born now for me and you.
What are we that you have loved us so well?
A song on high,
A Savior’s night,
Angel host rejoice thy glory to tell.
Lord, lead us to know,
You lay like a beggar so humble and low.
No place for your head, and straw for your bed
The glory of God to show.
Babe on mother’s knee,
Child so soon to be nailed to a tree,
All praise ‘til the end of our days.
O Lord, you have set us free.