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In a lowly stable, an infant lay in a manger. His very birth shook the powers that held sway at that time and set off rumblings that traveled to wise men in the east and shepherds tending their flocks in the field. As a man grown, though, Jesus changed the world.
For some, he was a prophet or wise rabbi. For others, Jesus was a man who fanned that divine spark~~the one that lies within us all~~until it completely consumed him, obliterating divisions between self and other, spirit and matter, above and below. And for many, he was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, Savior, the Son of God.
Regardless of the view you hold, there is no doubt that Christ’s walk among us changed everything. And while there are variations among the canonical gospels, the theme that resounds most frequently is Jesus’s message of love.
In John 13:34, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” The gospels are an articulation of this as they weave together parables and events that show what the living of this 11th commandment looks like.
Jesus reminds us to be gentle with one another. Judge not, that ye be not judged. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Consider the beam in your own eye before focusing on the mote in the eye of another.
He identifies the favored ones~~the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for what is right and just, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted~~and the children, always the children.
He urges us to social action. Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs. Give to the poor. As you have done unto the least of my brethren, you have done unto me. Invite to your banquet the poor, crippled, lame and blind.
He implores us to relate generously to our companions on this journey, be they friend or foe. Turn the other cheek. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Love your enemies. Forgive seventy times seven. Go in peace.
Quite a tall order, indeed! Surely we fail. Yet, as we turn this light of love on ourselves, we honor our fledging and faltering efforts and, in faith, rise up to try again.
As we celebrate today the birth of Jesus, we can recommit ourselves to enacting his message of love. In the stable of our own lives, within the manger of our own hearts, we can greet this impulse to love and vow to nurture it, day in and day out.
Martin Luther gave us one of the sweetest prayers ever. “Ah! dearest Jesus, holy Child, Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled, Within my heart , that it may be A quiet chamber kept for Thee."
Let us make a quiet chamber for thee in our hearts. And what springs forth from that chamber will surely sing thy name.
Amen. Hallelujah! And a Merry Christmas to you all!