This Christmas, as every Christmas, our family will gather around the Christmas tree for the opening of the presents. This year will be special, for all our children and grandchildren will be present – two families from East London, one family from Canada, and one family from Egypt. The only grandchildren to be missing will be our two Canadian step-grandchildren who are in their 20s and will be doing their own thing.
As is our custom, before the opening of the presents will talk very briefly about ‘the reason for the season’ and in that context I always read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke 2.1-7, which tells of Mary laying the baby Jesus in a manger.
What a story! Jesus was placed in a manger. As I wrote in my book, Joy to the World: Preaching at Christmas (published in 2005 and still available from IVP):
The manger is a sign of the mess and of the muddle into which God came. Certainly by modern Western standards. There is no place less hygienic than an animal feeding trough. The mind boggles as one reflects on the conditions surrounding the birth of Jesus. Indeed, the newspapers reported recently that the Bishop of Horsham… wanted his clergy to have buckets of manure in church at Christmas time to remind people that Jesus was born in a stable full of mess. The incense – a symbol of divinity – together with the smell of manure represent the paradox of the incarnation. Furthermore, he said, the aroma of the manure, wafting around the church, would remind people that Jesus gave his life to clearing up the mess men and women had made.
So whether we are on our own or with family, one thing for sure at Christmas we can rejoice that Jesus was born into our world for our salvation. A Happy Christmas to all of you who follow my blog!