Supposing the Church today was entrusted with the task of arranging God’s coming into the world. What kind of a fist would we make of it? It is not just a silly question, for it helps us to face reality as we enter into the last few days of preparation for Christmas.
Would anyone think of the possibility of God coming via an animal feeding trough in a dingy old stable in an obscure village in a remote part of the world? It seems highly unlikely. Yet the dingy old stable is the reality at the heart of Christmas. This is the context and setting of the Christmas story. That story tells us that the Son of God was born into the world without many of the creature comforts we take for granted.
Mary and Joseph were so lacking in resources that they had to prepare for the birth of their son by improvising with the sparse amenities of an animal shelter. And when we meditate on that stark picture do we not hear the voice of God calling us away from our preoccupation with materialism? An anonymous hymn writer pictures the scene in what is probably the best known of our Christmas carols:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head: the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The God who speaks from the manger is a God who has chosen to enter into the plight of the poor and the dispossessed of our world. That is the God who has a claim upon our loyalty as Christians. He is calling us to share his compassion for suffering humanity.