“For unto you is born
this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this
will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and
lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12)
“Once in our world, a Stable
had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” — C.S. Lewis
A king in a palace. A
king on a throne. A king with a crown on his head. These are easy for the human
mind to fathom; they meld with our logic. But a baby who is a king who is born
in a stable and laid in a manger! Not even the most imaginative fairytale
writer would have told such a tale. It took God, Creator of the whole world, to
come up with this plan. And so it was that just once, a manger in a stable,
held something greater than the whole world; a paradox to beat all others.
Paradoxes reveal the
fallibility of human logic. Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers,
concluded that “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” —a
paradox itself. Another Greek philosopher,
Chrysippos, came up with the paradox of the lie, which essentially poses
the question: If someone says “I always lie”, are they telling the
truth? Or are they lying? Now don’t tax yourself trying to find the answer, for
it is said that the poet Philitas of Cos died of exhaustion attempting to
resolve this paradox.
On a serious note though,
reflecting on the paradox of the king in a manger yields heavenly lessons. It
gives us food for thought about God Himself coming down, first to become a
human being, and not a six foot tall strong guy, but a little newborn baby; the
most helpless of all. It makes us wonder what the God who has the whole world
in His hands (The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in
it, the world, and all who live in it [Ps. 24:1]);and the cattle on a
thousand hills (For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a
thousand hills [Ps. 50:10])meant by having a stable as His first bedroom
and a manger for a crib.
Was He trying to tell us
that being the smallest, being seemingly the most insignificant, being helpless
can be great? That we should in fact strive to come down from high horses and
become like little children? “I assure you and most solemnly say
to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of
thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and
forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3, AMP)
Was He implying that we
should not set our hearts on mansions and other shiny trinkets that the world
has to offer, for “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt.19:24)? He
did model this by example when He pointed out that “Foxes have holes, and
birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Was
He letting us know that He was a king in search of a different type of palace,
perhaps one more resembling a human heart?
But a manger is not the
cleanest place, we reason, our human logic checking in once more. There are
animals there. There’s dung. Like our hearts, where all kinds of dirt, envy,
lust and hate may lurk. Until a king comes there. He turns the stable into a
palace. He turns the miserable heart into a grand throne, and sits there if we
C.S. Lewis got it right
again when he wrote: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons
of God.” For the stable did not turn Him into a pauper; it was He who turned
the stable into a palace.
The paradoxes continue as
Jesus is baptized. He chooses to become one of us. Son of Man. But can an ocean
fit in a teacup? John the Baptist wonders that very thing. “I need to be
baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt.3:13). But perhaps, after
all, that teacup needs the ocean to come in and change forever the nature of
its contents. Salty. Now it is salted and it can salt those who have no
flavour. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how
shall its saltiness be restored? (Matt.5:13).
Paradoxes. It seems the
Kingdom of God has no shortage of these. A humble king. A king riding on a
donkey, God on a cross. Crucified. Put to death by His own creation. Jesus in a
tomb. God is dead? Perhaps He just wants to touch every part of the world and
transform it. Then, Resurrection. “I
have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Love came down from heaven and
overcame death. The King in a manger. He changed the whole world. Nothing will
ever be the same again.
He is still defying human
logic. The Creator of the whole world in a tiny piece of bread. The Eucharist.
And people eat the bread and they are changed. God in the heart of man. He is
telling us that it doesn’t matter what situation we’re in… it only matters that
Jesus is in our situation. “And we know that for those who love God all
things work together for good, for those who are called according to his
purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
King Jesus in a manger,
we celebrate you in this season. Give us the grace to follow your example, and
to become more like you. Amen.