Christmas Expectations: Grace Came Down

Luke 2

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

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I’m sitting here in my living room on Christmas Eve.

Andy has one more service tonight, and will be home close to midnight. Meanwhile, we are home, and the babies are (thankfully and miraculously) fast asleep (though it wasn’t without a struggle tonight). The dishwasher is purring, and the rest of the kitchen is clean while the smell of slowly rising banana bread permeates the air.

I continue to ponder with Mary.
…To pray with Joseph.
…To pursue with the shepherds.
…To praise with the angels.

I’m struck by the image of the manger. The other night, we were flipping through the channels and paused for a moment on The Bible Network – a preacher was talking about Jesus being born and laid in the manger, which he described as a trough, or a place where the animals ate their fill. I’m not really drawn to any of the shows on TBN, but for some reason, these words have stayed with me, even though we spent less than a minute listening to this TV pastor.

I’m thinking about the later Christmas Eve service, which is typically a smaller, intimate time of worship, and much slower, meditative, and usually accompanied by communion. And I find myself missing it. There is something incredibly appropriate about taking communion on Christmas Eve, and in light of what I’ve been mulling over in terms of Jesus’ second vessel (the first being Mary) being a feeding trough, it resonates for me. Jesus, being offered to us, not on a silver platter (suddenly my mind flashes to what happened to John the Baptist, but that’s neither here nor there) but in a filthy receptacle for slobbering pigs, sheep, and cows.

Once again, I’m floored by what is offered to us. It’s so basic. Jesus comes to us, to feed and fill us. To give us grace.

Perhaps, also, in this season of life, the manger is before me because I am aware of my own hunger. I long for that grace to knock me off my feet, make my heart swell, and brighten all the colors around me. I’m so exhausted but I feel like…I should be feeling so much more, and that’s what I’m hoping for this Christmas Eve, so much so that I want to just stick my head in that feeding trough and bob for grace like I’m bobbing for apples.

And then, I remember that hunger is good. It is part of what makes us human…and realize the divine. So I’m thankful for that hunger and for its connection to grace, how they mysteriously go hand-in-hand, this emptiness and satisfaction, the hollow and simultaneous satiation. A miracle of sorts, at so many levels, this God coming down to be with us, around us, for us, and in us, to lead us, fill us and to light the way.

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