Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christ the King Born in a Manger


When I was a kid, one of my favorite Christmas songs was "Away in a Manger":
Away in a manger, no crib for his bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
We've heard the story so many times that it doesn't even register anymore. Christ was born in a manger. And we see the cute little pictures like the one here, and we have a big "awwww" moment. But think about it. The King of the Universe, our Creator and God, chooses to come to earth not in royal splendor but as a tiny babe in a manger filled with straw, "no crib for his bed".  What's the deal?

I pray with a Cenacle of Life group in which we pray the Rosary for Life, and the following is the meditation for the third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity of our Lord:
The Birth of God in total poverty amongst the animals attending the fields.  Amen.  Let us ponder, why was the Lord not born in a castle where kings live?  God chose to be born in a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals.  O' the Lord beckons those who are humble, who reject the wordly ways. 
The Creator of the Universe, the One who gives us every breath of air we breathe, chose to come to this earth in complete poverty. When people today go anywhere with their babies, they have to practically hire a truck to carry all of their baby stuff - car seat, diaper bags, bottles, forumla, toys, etc.. Our Lord didn't even have a blanket. All his parents had for him were "swaddling clothes":

"Swaddling clothes described in the Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. After an infant was born, the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and then the baby was washed, rubbed with salt and oil, and wrapped with strips of cloth."

And as the song says, he had no crib in which to lay his head, only a manger, a feeding trough for animals, filled with straw. 

Isn't it ironic that this momentous occasion - the birth of Christ, who was born into material poverty - is  marked by the world as a material orgy?  The "Christmas season" starts with what is called the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.  And on Christmas Eve this year, the headline on the Drudge Report is: "Air Jordan shoes cause riots around nation."
Scuffles broke out and police were brought in to quell unrest that nearly turned into riots across the nation Friday following the release of Nike's new Air Jordan basketball shoes — a retro model of one of the most popular Air Jordans ever made.

The mayhem stretched from Washington state to Georgia and was reminiscent of the violence that broke out 20 years ago in many cities as the shoes became popular targets for thieves. It also had a decidedly Black Friday feel as huge crowds of shoppers overwhelmed stores for a must-have item.
Is this what Christmas now means in our society - wars across the nation over sneakers???

Then I came across this article:  "Just Say No to Christmas".  This article is in the "money" section of USA Today.  It starts out:
Susan Lee, a divorced mother of three in New York City, is taking a drastic step this year. "No Christmas for me," she says. "No gifts, no turkey, no tree, no kidding."

Lee, 41, a marketing consultant, says she needs a break from the stress and spending that are integral parts of the holiday [this is not the Christmas that has anything to do with that small babe in the manger]. Her kids will celebrate a traditional Christmas with their dad, but she's ignoring all the rituals.
"I start dreading Christmas from the time the decorations go up in the stores," she says. "It stopped being fun for me, so I'll find out this year if I can do without it altogether. I think it will be a relief. It already is."
Huh?  If there are "No gifts, no turkey, no tree," then there is no Christmas?  If it's not "fun," then what's the point????

The article later says:
Some people simply loathe the holiday. A Facebook search for "I hate Christmas" turns up dozens of results, including pages and posts from people who say they despise almost everything about Christmas: music, shopping, family gatherings, trees and lights
Guess what, folks?  The "music, shopping, family gatherings, trees and lights" is NOT what Christmas is about.  This article actually gives me great hope, because it is telling me that people are rejecting the false Christmas created by our materialistic culture.  They are finding that it leaves you with your pocketbook drained and empty feelings.  And that is most certainly not why God came to earth as a small babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger filled with straw. 

Susan from New York and all the rest who are tired of what Christmas has become might be very interested in Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas message for this year.  This is from Reuters:
Pope Benedict ushered in Christmas for the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics on Saturday, urging humanity to see through the superficial glitter and commercialism of the season and rediscover the real significance of the humble birth of Jesus.

. . .

Benedict, wearing resplendent gold and white vestments, urged his listeners to find peace in the symbol of the powerless Christ child in a world continually threatened by violence.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," he said in his homily to about 10,000 people in the basilica and millions more watching on television throughout the world.

"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The Christmas story of how Jesus, who Christians believe is the son of God, was born powerless "in the poverty of the stable" should remind everyone of the need for humility.

"... let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart," he said.
My prayer is that everyone will find the true meaning of Christmas spoken of by our Holy Father.  Only then will we have the peace and joy that so many speak of this time of year, but rarely find.

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