Walk Away from the Manger

Shepherds walking away from the mangerThe crowds from last night’s liturgy have gone home. There’s just a few of us here this morning. The noise, song, and voices of last night’s celebration have fallen silent. The candlelight of Christmas Eve has given way to the dawn of Christmas Day.

That sounds a lot like the second half of St. Luke’s Christmas story (Luke 2:8-20). The multitude of heavenly host praising God have become silent. The angels have left and gone back to heaven. The glory of the Lord is no longer shining on the shepherds. In fact, the shepherds have gone back to their fields and sheep.

We are left with Mary, Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. They say nothing. There is only silence on this day. Maybe that’s how it should be. Everything that needs to be said has already been said. “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

In some ways this is one of those moments when to say anything at all is to say too much. It is a time, as Mary knows, to treasure and ponder. It is a time to move from the event of Christmas to the meaning of Christmas. We must begin to interiorize the reality of God-with-us.

Treasuring and pondering are the interiorizing work of the heart. God-with-us is not a question to be answered or a concept to be explained but, rather, a truth to be lived. That lived truth begins with walking away from the manger. The good news was announced to the shepherds in their fields and amongst their flock and that is where it will be lived.

Before Christmas they were shepherds and after Christmas they are shepherds. Before Christmas they were living in the fields and after Christmas they are living in the fields. Before Christmas they were watching over their flock and after Christmas they are watching over their flock. Christmas always returns us to the fields of our life: the ordinary and routine, the joys and sorrows, the familiar relationships, and the daily work and worries.

Christmas is not an escape from life. It is a deepening and sacralizing of all life and creation; the joining together of heaven and earth, divinity and humanity, spirit and matter. Like the shepherds we must leave the nativity scene, the event of Christmas, and return to the fields of our life. That’s where we will treasure and ponder the cradle of God in our own life. That’s where we will discover God’s embodiment of our humanity. That’s where we will glorify and praise God for all we have heard and seen.

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The above sermon is based on Luke 2:8-20. The collect and readings for Christmas Day may be found here.

2 thoughts on “Walk Away from the Manger

  1. For years I have volunteered for Altar Guild duty on Christmas morning. Having been part of the Midnight Celebration I always find this service a bit of a let down. The regular organist is taking a well earned day off,and the small congregation seems to consist largely of people who can’t sing at all, or who, like me, can’t get above a B flat. The scheduled ushers don’t show up and I have to hand out bulletins and take up the offering. I find myself feeling sorry for the people who come, that they missed the real celebration. Quite honestly, I can’t wait to leave the manger and get back to a normal life. But I’m also reminded of Pope Gregory’s comment on the Wise Men returning home by a different way. He taught that once we have encountered Jesus we can’t go back to our lives by the same road on which we came. Your meditation gives me lots to think about. Thanks, Fr.Mike.

    PEACE,
    ellen connelly

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    • Merry Christmas Ellen. While we walk away from the manger we never really leave it. It is who we are. Our lives become the manger of Jesus’ birth. I have always enjoyed the quiet and seeming emptiness of Christmas Day, time for treasuring and pondering.

      Christmas blessings and joy,
      Mike+

      Like

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