Away in a manger of grief


This Christmas was one in which I found myself limping into. Often when I’ve struggled to engage with Christmas it’s been due to ghosts of Christmas past. Things that shaped me as a child and my family over this holiday season. For many years, hard memories marred and crippled my joy. A bunch of years back I decided to do the hard work of uncovering some of those wounds and disappointments and begin to reclaim this time of year as one of thanksgiving and celebration.

However, this year there have been very current and present circumstances that have left me feeling sad and deeply grieved. I’m exhausted and unsure of where to place some of the pain. Sure, I know all the theory of casting my burdens unto Jesus. But it’s a bit awkward to emburden someone you love so deeply, on their birthday, isn’t it?

I still feel the reserve, the question and the doubt that my grief is unwelcomed. That my dramas spoil the party. Maybe it’s best to just tuck them all away out of view? Maybe that’s the type of present I’ll give to Jesus that he’ll like best?

Carefree, whole, joyous Stevie.

But then I remember the drama of this great Christmas narrative. The sheer scandal of it all. The shocking reality that Jesus willingly chose to enter into the mess, that is humanity.

Our pain wasn’t a barrier to his arrival, it was his great invitation. Humanity did not prepare him room. Humanity did not set out the banquet table nor deck the halls. No, humanity sat in sin and error pining.

Jesus saw this and it hastened his stride. Through utter vulnerability he enters this world into a manger via an unplanned pregnancy. This baby arrives with no fanfare or triumph. The one who spoke every fiber of reality into existence takes the road not just less traveled, but rather the road never traveled.

He doesn’t see my pain or strife as a barrier. He doesn’t see it as a inconvenience or a hurdle. He sees that my life and our lives, are all really just dirty stables. He sees our hearts as an unlikely manger to potentially be brought into. He sees the lack of our current circumstances, and with all his abundance reveals what Emmanuel really means .

God, fully with us.