A Heart of a Manger

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Isaiah 9: 1-6; Luke 2: 1-14

Some would say that the world was given an early Christmas present back on March 13th with the election of Pope Francis.  When Time named him “Person of the Year” a few weeks ago, they noted that in just a matter of seven months, this guy has enlivened the imaginations of millions of people across the globe to strive for a greater good in life while at the same time challenging the complacency in many aspects of our lives.  However, always pointing us towards Christ.  Others would say it is his love and compassion that he has show for the poor, the aged, the youth, and the infirmed; we have seen many images of him embracing many different people.  Others would note the reform that he is undertaking within a Church that has been plagued by scandal, a fascination with sin, and influenced more by culture than just the reverse.  But maybe most importantly has been the Christmas message of a God who is welcomed in by the powerless.  Rule number one for addicts is to recognize our own powerlessness and to see how much things have power over us…not just alcohol, but our minds and thoughts that we play over and over in our heads, the internet, politics, media, and so on, we overindulge in the externals leaving us striving for more of it all leaving us empty at the same time.

A people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.  Meeting us in our own powerlessness.  Pope Francis, speaking to the children, an audience of very little power, a few weeks ago reminded them not to fall into the trap of making this story we hear tonight into a fairy tale.  It’s not something that just happened 2000 years ago, but continues to unfold and manifest itself in our lives today and has been unfolding from the beginning of time.  Mary and Joseph, this young couple that have nowhere to turn.  Has society turned on them because of their circumstances?  Where do they go?  Powerless in their own way, scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet.  An inn keeper who only sees consumers and looking for profits and yet no room for such a couple as they make their way to Bethlehem; they have nothing to offer him.  Slamming the door in their face; a lack of recognition of what is unfolding, a plan from the beginning of time culminates in Bethlehem and at that moment, no room for such a person or such a family, go to where the animals feed and there you will find rest.  Powerless this couple was to their surroundings and circumstances thrown their way, only cooperating in the plan unfolding.  

Shepherds, thieves that they were, disrespected, the lowest of the low.  God’s plan unfolds before their eyes.  How can this be?  We are worthless and we are given a sign…an infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.  No one in power, political or religious, will ever believe such a story.  Eyes and hearts are closed to the miracle taking place, looking and clamoring for power in all the wrong places. How can an all-powerful God come down to earth and be one with us?  How can God show himself to the powerless and to be powerless in the infant child?  It cannot be.  A people who walk in darkness…striving for worldy power, influenced by our politics, media, technology, darkness seems like light so often or so we are led to believe.  In those places where we seem to be hooked in life is our Bethlehem.  Is there room in the Inn for what we believe to be less than us?  Is there room in the Inn of our hearts for all people, free of judgment, a God who embraces all?  

Our Bethlehem.  Our Inn.  Is this newborn King welcome?  Maybe best to create a stable of silence and space for what is unfolding, life as God sees.  In those places within ourselves that continue to control us and lead us to further darkness…body, mind, hearts, plagued by hurt and grief.  These are the places of powerlessness within us, yet, because of our fear of the dark we choose to slam the door shut and strive for power beyond ourselves.  These are our Bethlehem’s.  These are the Inn’s.  Can we make them our mangers and invite the Christ into them, bearing the light to a people who walk in darkness?  On this Christmas Day, we pray, that as Pope Francis has taught, create that space and silence and invite Christ into the Bethlehem of our lives, just as God did and continues to do in a world plagued by hurt and darkness.  Once we believe, we will see the miracle that continues to happen within and around us.  Merry Christmas!

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