The Mirror and the Manger

Students and colleagues who claim the richness and freedom of aetheism have prompted much thought and consideration. Stepping back, bathing in the technological innovations and scientific shifts of the last decades, excitment and awe cleanse ignorance and embolden possibilities. The very earth quakes with the rapidity of change and the stress of multiple generations caught in the riptide of transition. And so we evolve as human beings, re-creating the world we live in, the communities that shape lives, and the thinking that enables being. Healthy skepticism stalks the stories that offered satisfaction to earlier worlds. Revelation and prophecy have found a home as supposition, lost ground to statistics and data. So where does faith fit? With the Bethlehem Star intersection of Jupiter and Saturn, where does the narrative of the birth of Jesus fit? Has it a place in this new world? What does the Nativity story offer?

As Catholics and Protestants alike recall the birth of Jesus, there is a palpable connection to the reality of human life: family, birth, joy, fear, uncertainty and promise. The story mirrors the most basic facets of human life, and so every incarnation of it that is sculpted by culture bears a depth of validity and holds out an invitation to the rest of the Gospel. Beyond that point is another: a God who chooses human shape, form, interaction, connections. In other words, this is not a God trapped in the myths of pantheons or the statues of artists. This Jesus walks, talks, emotes, provokes, invites, shares and dares to hope. This is a story of layers, textures, woven together as every human story is from a variety of perspectives. And the angels of Luke, the Magi of Matthew, meld together the understandings of generations about an extraordinary life with Jesus’ simple and direct teachings and an extraordinary birth.

Faith in this Jesus offers a series of lessons. First, we are all simultaenously ordinary and extraordinary. Second, we are not alone; we exist in communities with persons and connections that we both need and contribute to. Third, decisons and choices, purpose and moive truly matter. The Nativity story itself frames each of these, and it invites serious consideraton of the ways in which each of us lives.

We are each the heroes of our own story. The Nativity story is a reminder that is fallacy for everyone plays a role in every story. There is the innkeeper, the shepherds, the angels, Joseph ever so reticent and Mary just barely detailed. Learning from the story means beginning to believe in the magnaminity of a God who cradles each life as extraordinary in the midst of its very ordinariness. It is the chance to begin to believe that each of us is loved, cared for, by the God who dares to provide all this: each life matters. That sense is wound healing; that belief is empowering. It establishes hope and confidence, the kind of love that sustains through crisis, tragedy, and brokennesss. It offers forgiveness, hope and well being. It survives trial and triumph. Most importantly, it is the glimmer of the divine, something beyond what is merely human. It is the gift of unfailing divine love, given to mere mortals to navigate events and relationships. That all echoes the measures of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.” It provides a pathway for life that is not simply about self. It is a consciousness of who we are and who we can be when we dare to look in the mirror of the manger and know the reality of divine love.

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