Steadfast faith and love born in a stable
Judy Bauer, member, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
When I was very young, I rode horses at Mr. Mott's stable near Blue Mound south of Lawrence. A little later, when my family owned horses, I spent a good deal of time in another stable by Lakeview Club. These stables sheltered horses, cows, chickens and many other animals, and there I witnessed birth, life and death.
My chores in the stable marked the time of day and connected me to natural rhythms required to care for living things. The earthy fragrance of alfalfa hay, oiled leather, sweat-soaked saddle blankets, manure and dust permeated the space and my clothes.
So it should come as no surprise that, for me, Christ's birth in a stable symbolizes simplicity and shelter. It reconnects me to the rhythms I knew as a child and to who I am now. Every year the Christmas nativity reminds me that Christ offers love, an emotional home and a spiritual watering hole which I can visit anywhere, anytime. I need a spiritual refill regularly because when I switch on the news, I often see a conflicted world, sweat-soaked, dusty, full of anxieties, offenses, issues. And then there is my own humanness, the times when I am greedy, thoughtless, careless.
When used as an adjective, the word stable means steadfast and I think that word describes Christ. He offers a template through which I may interpret events and difficulties. He is available night and day, year round. My ideas about Christmas and Christ grow and change all the time. They are private and dynamic. Yet always, the comfort of the stable remains.
God's gift, humility in which it was given
Dwayne Dunn, member, Lawrence Heights Christian Church, 2321 Peterson Road:
The plain language of Luke 2:7 states "And she (Mary) gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
The extraordinary thing about this rather basic statement is that it refers to the most important event in history, where God sent his only son to live with men on earth, die as a sacrifice for their sins, and rise to reclaim his place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That God would choose Mary and Joseph and a lowly stable of animals for this amazing happening is both shocking and humbling.
As a musician, I have had the great joy of singing, playing and hearing the wonderful songs of Christmas my whole life. I enjoy the great hymns, ancient carols, simple folk-songs and intricate choral compositions that men have written, all serving as but a pale imitation of the praise declared by a multitude of the heavenly host: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of goodwill."
One of the texts I enjoy the most is the Latin "O Magnum Mysterium," which speaks of the great mystery that animals (not people) were there to witness the birth of Christ. The King of Glory was born in a barn for an audience of animals!
If God can lower himself to such a humble state for his arrival on earth, can there ever be a time when we should need to seek the passing attention and glory of other men? For "whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:12)