Many years ago, I traveled to Israel. We visited the Dead Sea, the Jordan River. We saw Jericho and Nazareth. We also visited Bethlehem and saw the church built on the site that was once a lowly manger.
It was adorned with candles and incense. It gleamed with polished silver. It was encased in marble and guarded by men with guns.
It was nothing like the image burned in my childhood memory and, in all honesty, I left disappointed.
Around the corner, wood workers labored in huge piles of sawdust, their dremels carving nativity sets out of Olive Wood faster than they could sell them. I tried to help ease the burden of their stock. To this day, it is one of our favorite Christmas decorations.
But there isn’t a holiday season that passes that I don’t think of that “manger” and what we’ve done to it. There isn’t a Christmas eve service that occurs that I don’t wonder if we’ve missed the entire point. There isn’t a present that is opened on Christmas morning when I don’t ponder God’s original design and our corruption of the plan.
“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of worrying about the gift that is under the tree, we would wonder at the Gift of God’s Grace? Wouldn’t it be liberating if we didn’t complain about the wrong size or color of the sweater, given to us by our Aunt, and instead were thankful for the Gift given freely…one size fits all. Wouldn’t it save us time and energy and change our entire focus if the lights and tree we raise in November were replaced with palms lifted up in adoration?