In the history of the Church, one cannot count the number of poor and marginalized, the disinherited who have identified with the circumstance of Mary and Joseph upon the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Too late to find a room in the inn, they must settle for a stable, and the coming king is reduced to lying in a manger. However, and not to discount historical consensus, there is an alternative interpretation to the manger signifying poverty.
In the Gospel of Luke, the manger conveys “a peculiarity of location caused by circumstances,” says leading biblical scholar Raymond Brown; suggesting instead that the manger relates to the symbolism of God’s complaint in Isaiah 1:3: “The ox knows its owner; and the donkey knows the manger of its Lord; but Israel has not known me; my people have not understood me.” Therefore, the peculiar location of Jesus’ birth repeals God’s complaint for the shepherds find the Godchild lying in a manger, the manger of their Lord.
Like the shepherds of old, this Christmas I pray you will find God in the peculiarity of location caused by circumstances.
Consider all the commotion going on around you. Remember the embrace you shared with friends and family. Recall the generosity of this celebration. Reflect on the bread broken at the Christmas feast. Allow a melody of carols to enter your ear. Permit emotion to fill your heart. Inasmuch as the manger in a Bethlehem stable is the divinely ordered location for God’s self-revelation, so too God is speaking through the particularity of the place you inhabit. No matter the circumstances you survived or provoked to arrive at your current habitation, no matter your age or ability, your pedigree or caste, right here, right now God desires you to know and to understand, to see and to taste God’s love for you.
Here is my Christmas prayer: Through the abundance of grace and peace may you see Christ in the common, the Divine in the daily, today and forever more. Amen