One of the more ubiquitous symbols of the advent season is the manger. We sing about it in “Away in the Manger”. It is the central focus piece of every nativity scene (well it’s Jesus, but he’s always in the manger).
The manger is tells a deeper story though. From the various texts, we can gleen a few things. We know that Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem to be counted for the census. We are told that they had to go there because Joseph was from the line of David. Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is married to the high priest.
So when Mary who is connected to the priestly class and Joseph who comes from the line of King David can’t find a place to stay in Bethlehem, you know something is up. These familial connections should have garnered enough respect for someone in the family to give them lodging, especially considering Mary’s condition. Why then did both sides of the family shun them to the point they were forced to stay where the animals are kept? Was the town so full that there was no other place? Certainly someone would have traded places to allow Mary a safe and clean place to rest and give birth. But no, this wasn’t the case.
Mary’s pregnancy caused such a scandal that both Mary and Joseph lost their standing in the eyes of society and their family. A fall so far that they landed amongst the livestock rather than someplace deserving of the priestly class or lineage of David.
From this we can see the remarkable courage demonstrated by Joseph and Mary. There were multiple off-ramps along the way. But because of their faith, they saw this journey through. As advent people, we need the courage of Mary and Joseph. There are plenty of reasons for us to give up, plenty of ways in which we may lose our standing. But just like Mary and Joseph, they had one very compelling reason to stay the course. Jesus.
Despite the hardship and fall from the world’s grace, there is no record of their complaint. They carried the burden given to them by God, brought forth the light of the world and put him in a manger.
VERSE: Luke 2:13-19 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Prayer: O God of the manger, you came to be among the lowly. You came to us far from the standing that you deserve, but still you came. Help us to carry you throughout the world, even when we’ve lost our place. Give us the courage of Mary and Joseph who listened to you when things got really hard.