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Neither the time nor place for a baby

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Throughout this Advent, I have thought about the meaning of the birth story. That Jesus Christ, the deliverer, our hope and salvation, the King of all Kings, the Son of God, is born in the most unexpected place. It is a stall for animals; dirty, forgotten, isolated – and isolating. He comes at a time (take your pick: mother not-yet wed, government census / tax season, travel far from home) that is at minimum “unexpected,” and definitely inconvenient. This is neither the time nor place to deliver a baby.

These are, however, words of assurance for Christians, and the story of promise for all people: that in the most unexpected times and places we can be confident of the presence of the Lord. He does not shy away from the desolate places and isolating events. He is right there in the midst of all of it, joining the bad to the good, altering our perspective on life’s difficult times so that we see opportunities for growth.

I have a tendency sometimes to think of things as “either – or.” A comment, experience or concept is either right or it is wrong. We do this a lot in the church, judging whether something is “right” or “wrong” according to our understanding of scripture, doctrine or theology.

But I don’t believe it’s really that simple. Actually, I wonder if over the ages humanity has actually made it more complicated than it needs to be, that in fact, it is quite simple.

When Jesus taught us to pray as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, it includes the request that God provide us “today our daily bread.” Physical, edible bread, or spiritual “bread”? Or both? The thing we need to sustain us for this day is a little food to eat and the spiritual assurance of the presence of God. These are the things that sustain us and nurture us.

From the moment of his birth, Jesus’ story communicates to us a holistic understanding of life. His was not a story of irony (aka the King born in a manger) nor necessarily analogy or metaphor, but rather an example of complete and total assimilation. Impoverished royalty, almighty pacifist, divine human. What seems incongruous is coherent. The parts have become one whole.

Maybe this is not an “either / or” world we live in. Possibly we don’t get a choice about being spiritual or secular. We just might be in need of a little more awareness of where we are (and whose we are!). And that’s what’s so great about this day, when we all get a little reminder, whether we are ready for it or not, regardless if this is a good time or place for us, that ‘Jesus is born tonight’. Again.

Merry Christmas.

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