It’s my job to put together the manger scene each year in my house. I get out the animals, and the 3 Kings (who don’t get to go into the manger until Epiphany), Joseph with his now broken hand and Mary, the heroine of the barn. Finally my favorite piece, the baby Jesus gets placed in the manger and all the statues stare and adore Baby-Lord.
God is exactly where I like Him—quiet and humble in a manger, lowly, unchallenging; easy to control. Seeing the Christ-child in the manger requires nothing on my part but the ability to sit, adore and presumably, convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.
There is comfort indeed in Jesus’ silence as an unspeakable baby. God empties Himself, as a vulnerable little baby, and all I do is coo and ahhh and maybe play peek-a-boo at God in the manger. I don’t endure the labor pains (even the male type), nor listen to any of Christ’s excruciating screams. I don’t change any dirty diapers or even have to try to keep Him warm.
But while God gives us all of Himself at Christmas, how much of myself am I comfortable giving to others even during this season of giving? I give a nice gift to my parents, while pushing them to the side when they need my time. The children I know get the latest toys that keep them out of my hair (or what’s left of it). I step over the homeless while rushing out of Macy’s to Christmas parties, and Midnight Mass and I buy my wife her favorite videos to avoid having any real or intimate conversation. They are all there with Jesus in my manger, quiet and comfortable.
I never dare to identify with this child fearing going beyond the manger—because I know and easily avoid the rest of the story each Christmas night.
On this night, unto you a savior is born, but do I dare to start living the life that Christ will live?
This child will climb out of that manger and will make a lot of noise and bother some very powerful people. The child will reach out to all of those who are the least in the eyes of so-called dignified people, he will love those who are hard to love, and finally he will be killed by those who willed that his unlovable followers remain unloved. The wood of the manger will one day become the wood of the cross and the nails that keep Jesus safely tucked away as a quiet God in a well built though makeshift crib, will still his voice again one day.
Christmas is a breezy style holy-day where I give and receive gifts with those who keep me comfortable around the fireside rather than sit in Christ’s manger shivering in the cold. I relegate Christ to a place where I dare not travel myself and then I keep Christ in that manger, only taking him out once per year to get a good look at him, never challenging myself to climb out of my crib, and be Christ-like. Christ will become a man who has no need for mangers, but will be one who is called to have hands that heal and comfort people like my wife when she is at her most vulnerable moments or the child who has nobody to care for him. Will I climb out of the comfy hay only to walk and fall flat on my face or do I stay flat on my back content with my comfortable and cozy lifestyle, never growing any stronger than the infantile adult I prefer to remain? Will those same feet carry me to places where I might not want to go—to the smelly homeless man on the corner or to my mother who is getting older and requires more of my time and patience?
Yes, tonight God has indeed become one of us, but will I ever allow him to get out of the manger or do I crawl in the manger with Him?
I’ve got God right where I want Him at Christmas, don’t I? Precocious and darling, God doesn’t ask anything of me at Christmas. Unless I look and listen on this holy night, I will never find the Christ who calls me beyond the manger to a life that isn’t always as comfortable as a simple Silent Night.