During December some of us struggle to balance the extra demands on our time with a longing to remain spiritually centered. How do we embrace the busyness, fun, and festivities that honor the arrival of the sacred while also carving out a still small moment to reflect and ponder the meaning of this beautiful season? I love the story about the church that often used a doll for the baby Jesus. One year they decided to make it better by using a real baby. But just as the children’s choir sang “no crying he makes” the infant screamed a horrific cry. And the baby’s big sister shouted at him to shut up. Sometimes Christmas doesn’t feel very holy.
In his book, The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr writes, “The full Christian leap of faith is trusting that Jesus together with Christ gave us one human but fully accurate window into the Eternal Now that we call God.” I love the reminder that the one born in a manger was a fully accurate window into God. When you think about that “fully accurate window” what do you picture? The way he touched a leper who could have given him a horrific disease, the way he shared the trout in his picnic basket with the neighbor on food stamps, the moments he refused to return insults with insults and embraced his enemy with tender compassion.
Rohr goes on to say, “Frankly, Jesus came to show us how to be human much more than how to be spiritual…” And so as we think about how to navigate the stress of the holidays and the challenges of life in general, we have a model. Jesus showed us how to be human. He forgave those who hurt him. He took time alone to pray and sit with God in silence. He welcomed children. He broke the rules of society that shut out women and foreigners and invited all to God’s banquet table.
As we look back on the sweetness of the manger, we remember that the straw was smelly. It may not have been idyllic. But the real sweetness of that night is that the one born amidst the muck grew up and became a window into God.