Away in a manger — far away


It’s gone. Christmas is gone. The only signs that indicate Christmas may have stopped by recently are a pretty sad-looking partially-shriveled poinsettia by the fireplace and a dry Christmas wreath on the front door. Marti was playing with the idea of keeping up the whimsical Santa and his reindeer set she likes so much, but in the end it came down too. At some point you have to move on. Our point just came late this year — later than ever. Most of you are thinking, “Christmas? Is he still talking about Christmas?”

I’ve been mulling over yesterday’s Catch which reflected on the secularization of the sacred part of Christmas, and it has made me see again what I had forgotten: that the world will indulge in the manger scene — even in the angelic choir and its proclamation of peace on earth — but that’s about as far as it goes. Keep the Son of God as a baby. It may be Jesus, but it’s baby Jesus somewhere away in a manger. Far away. Everybody loves a baby. Everybody can celebrate a baby in a manger. It’s cute. It’s endearing. It’s a baby, for heaven’s sake. Who can resist a baby?

My wife was instrumental in bringing New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes to Branson, Missouri. As a result of her high-level connections with Radio City Music Hall, she was able to bring our family back stage and front and center for the New York show (it was the only time I’ve ever shared an elevator with a live camel). The show ends with what is probably the most lavish manger scene on record, complete with live sheep, camels, shepherds and wise men who process onto the stage in full regalia while the lyrics of “One Solitary Life,” adapted from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1926, are read and scrolled on the screen. This is at the end of the show, after the dancing Rockettes have entertained to the secular Christmas songs of jingling bells, silver bells and little toy soldiers. The scene ends with the haunting words: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.” It’s an unexpected tribute to Christianity in a commercial Christmas show whose investors and owners are primarily Jewish.

Yet as powerful as this presentation is, the rest of the story of Jesus — His life, death and resurrection — is left for people to find out from other sources, and we certainly hope many do. Yet with all of this, Jesus remains a baby in a manger.

No wonder. A grown-up Jesus is a threat to our sensibilities, to our best thoughts about ourselves, to our pharisaical attitudes, our attempts at righteousness, our judgments, our pride, and His cruel death on a cross proclaims loudly our sinfulness and need for a savior. Thank you, Jesus, for becoming a baby. Thank you, Jesus, for not staying a baby. And thank you, Jesus, for not staying far away.


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6 Responses to Away in a manger — far away

  1. gregg says:

    Thank you Jesus.

  2. Mark D Seguin says:

    Amen: “..thank you, Jesus, for not staying far away.”

  3. I have very little knowledge about botany or horticulture or any other study involving plants but one thing I do know: our Christmas cactuses (cacti?) do not seem to be too concerned with what the date on the calendar says or which holiday is upon us.
    Rarely a month goes by when one of them isn’t blooming.
    However, they usually don’t bloom at the same time. They trade months.
    So, it’s become common banter in our household to muse over our Groundhog Day cactus or St. Patrick’s cactus or Easter cactus and so forth.
    One cactus blooms red flowers and the other blooms white so maybe that genetic difference is enough for them to maintain alternate blooming schedules? I don’t know.
    They do seem to be content, though, showing off their respective beauty for their selected months; and it’s not like they’re competing with each other but working more as a tag team in support of one another with the purpose of brightening our days. Well… if I were to anthropomorphize them, that’s what I’d like to believe!! 🙂

    (Would the continual growth of my Christmas cactuses (cacti) be considered some sort of Christmas miracle??!! Maybe this is actually normal and I’m not aware??)

    Anyway, I suppose they could be seen as red and white reminders of Christmas through every other holiday, remembrance, and observance as well as every day in-between.
    And, perhaps, that is how Christmas ought to be seen.
    Christmas is with us each day if we’ll only look for it like a present under the tree.
    Christmas never stalled or went away.
    We may have moved on from December 25th and looked back upon it with pleasant memories or some form of depression or separation anxiety but the true essence of the Holiday itself remains with us… as long as we would only we see each day and God’s creation as His daily gift to us that is bright and beautiful and ready to be received, unwrapped, embraced, valued, and appreciated as the blessing it was meant to be.

    It is Christmas every day.
    For if Jesus hadn’t come as a baby, if He hadn’t lived a very real flesh-and-blood life, if He hadn’t given up everything as the ultimate gift for you and me, if He hadn’t returned from the grave as foretold, if He hadn’t gone back to Heaven to prepare a place for us, and if we don’t really expect Him to come back again… then I doubt anything worthwhile would exist for us at all and our own existence would have little-to-no hope, no joy, no peace, no promise, and plenty of misery.
    At the very least, we would have no opportunity to watch any Christmas extravaganzas performed by the Rockette’s or find any poignancy in cactuses (cacti?) that are supposed to bloom during a specific time each year and named accordingly.
    Life would indeed suck.
    Thank God: it’s Christmas every day!

    (You’ll please forgive me if I go out on a limb and equate the red cactus with the blood of Jesus and the white cactus with His holiness.)

    Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

    • jwfisch says:

      Besides, cactus plants are probably more appropriate for the climate and terrain where Jesus walked than Oregon fir trees.

  4. Alma Siemens says:

    A point well taken, a point well expressed.

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