Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Manger Wide

" While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:6-7

Many Christmases ago, in the early 1980s, we were living in suburban New York with my parents. Our oldest daughter was three and a half and we had moved there after living for several years in Colorado. It was both wonderful and challenging to live once again with parents as parents ourselves. My Dad was a Presbyterian minister, so, as was always the case, everyone in the family had several roles during the Christmas services. Emily had been part of the family service, singing with the other "cherubs" and Mark and I had been pressed into service at the late service, as was my mother. Although we tried hard, we found no babysitter. Emily was so familiar and comfortable in the church that we, with her permission, put her to sleep in the nearby library room, just off the sanctuary. She was happy there and drifted off to sleep. We could hear her where we sat in the sanctuary and she knew she could come get us if she woke. The service when off without a hitch, and when we were all done, these two young and anxious parents hurried in to collect our precious sleeping bundle.

She was a sleep indeed but what we saw when we got there was surprising and wonderful. She had one hand extended out of her little bed and was holding the hand of the doll in the manger. All of the props from the earlier pageant had been brought to the library to be stored but had not yet been put away. There she was, sound asleep, holding hands with the baby Jesus. The baby Jesus was reaching out to her and she was holding tight to him. When we woke her to take her home, that early Christmas morning, we asked her what had happened. She told us that she had awoken and was scared. Then she saw Jesus and she knew that he would keep her safe. She took his hand and told him all about her Mom and Dad and what she wanted for Christmas. She told us she never got scared, or alone, or afraid after that.

May this Christmas be a time when we all reach out for that tiny hand. May we, like Emily, tell Jesus everything, knowing that the God of love is listening to the needs of our hearts. May we be fearless in the face of troubling times assured that God is nearby. Reach out a hand to the manger. There may be no room anywhere else for you, but there is room by the manger. The Christ child, the incarnate God, is present and with us. Our fears, the rejections we have suffered, our aches, losses and our needs are known in that sacred place. May we this Christmas day rejoice for Emmanuel, God with Us, is come and we need but to reach out a hand.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas -May Christ's love set you free to love this day and always!

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