Would you choose to place your newborn child in a “manger” to sleep?

Logos of Christmas – The Manger

There was no room in the Bethlehem Inn, the Bible tells us. So, Jesus was born in a stable and his parents laid him in the manger – the place where the animals were fed. As a child on the farm, I knew that a manger had high sides just like a crib. Our stable/barn, warmed by the animals that were housed there, was quiet and peaceful especially at night. Filled with soft, sweet smelling straw, a manger didn’t seem like such a bad place. After all my dad kept our stable relatively clean, although there were often big spiders and tiny mice living there.

By the time I was ten, I had soaked in the idea that we needed to make room in our hearts for the baby Jesus. That didn’t seem very hard. I loved babies. Why wouldn’t we make room for Jesus? I understood him to be loving and fun. After all, he played with the children, which was unusual for a famous speaker and healer.

Today, I’m aware of the much deeper symbolism of that manger, and of being born in a stable. I see people on the city streets wearing several layers of clothes, carrying all their belongings in plastic bags, sleeping on hot air vents and under bridges. I know there is a second face to homelessness. Loss of the income of one or the other or both wage-earners, through layoffs, downsizing, or out-sourcing, means no money for heat, or hydro, or shelter. Without extended family to take them in, whole families become homeless.

Mary and Joseph had come to their home town and still, there were no family or friends to care for them. Even money couldn’t get them a room at the inn.

The Christmas manger calls us to step outside of our comfortable world and remember the hungry, the homeless, the refugees. Jesus didn’t begin life in the wealth and luxury that many of us have living in Canada. It wasn’t his parents’ choice that he would be born in a stable, I’m sure. And yet, the manger bed carries a stronger call to love and care for all people, than a fancy crib in the finest palace would. This Christmas, listen to God’s call. Be generous. There is endless need.  

 “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.” (Luke 2:6-7)  NRSV

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