• More from the Manger

    Christmas eveMessage for Christmas Eve on Luke 2:1-20 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

    Sometimes I try to imagine what Mary was thinking about on that trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She was losing whoever stood by her in this unplanned pregnancy. She had to know that she would not make it back to Nazareth to deliver this baby—so her mind must have been full of questions. Where will she deliver? Who will help her? Will Jospeh’s distant relatives welcome her?—These are all anxieties around the question: How will my needs be met?

    Mary, the Mother of our Lord faces the same question we all do, no matter our circumstances, gender, age, or stage in life, because life and it’s challenges are always changing around us. How will my needs be met?

    • How will my needs be met as I age?
    • How will my needs be met with no health insurance?
    • How will my needs be met as I live with so much grief 
    • or with inflation of whatever anxieties raise questions in your own mind.

    We all know how Mary’s needs were met—not ideal circumstances, by any means, but they did have a roof over their head, and she had help. Joseph’s relatives did take them in, but traveling slowly, they were the last ones to arrive. The “inn,” which is not a motel as we imagine it, but is really the “guest room” of a home—was already full, as was the rest of the house. The only free space was at the front end of the home, off the living platform, where the animals stayed at night lending their warmth to the whole household.

    But there is another clue in the story that lets us know that not only Mary’s needs will be met in the future, but all our needs, too. We have heard it perhaps a hundred times, but maybe never paused to ponder in our hearts the true meaning it conveys.

    It’s the word, “manger”—did you notice that Luke repeats the word 3 times? A careful writer usually picks another word to avoid repetition. After using the word, "manger” the first time, one would pick “feeding box” or “trough” the second time, or possibly, “in the hay” the third time, instead of “manger" over and over again. 
    But not  Luke, He makes no effort at literary variety and in fact, does the opposite. He seems quite intent on making sure we read or hear that word, “manger” at least 3 times: Mary laid Jesus, this Messiah, in a manger; the angel tells the shepherds the sign will be a baby lying in a manger; the shepherds go and find Jesus just as the angels said, “lying in a manger.”

    Why the repetition of this one word, this feed box for donkeys, sheep and goats?

    By using the word, manger repeatedly, Luke foreshadows, in neon, truths about this Messiah he wants us to watch for in Jesus’ mission of nourishment, care and sustenance.

    For this Savior will grow up and take 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feed 5,000 people. Jesus will become the manger for hungry people, feeding them, providing for their physical needs.

    This Messiah, will grow up and touch lepers and restore sight—healing people. Jesus will become the manger of healing nourishment for people seeking for their bodies to made whole.

    This Messiah will grow up and welcome sinners, and the outcast and rejected, and provide the soul sustenance of community, forgiveness, and acceptance –the bread of new life. Jesus will become the manger of shared community where all are welcome.

    And this Messiah now lying in a manger, will take the bread of the Passover and say, "this is my body given for you," and this Messiah, will take the cup of wine and say, "this is my blood shed for you."

    This Messiah, lying in a manger, will feed us with his very life—with his body broken and blood outpoured,

    • so that we might have forgiveness, and life,
    • so that we might have strength and love,
    • so that we might have nourishment and peace now and through eternity.

    The Messiah and Savior, first held in the feed box for animals, becomes our food—providing us with every source of sustenance and nurture we could ever need or imagine.

    Yes, Mary did have her needs met, and so do we. Our Savior Jesus Christ, born among the family of creation, human and animal together, lying in a manger, provides for all our needs—physical, emotional, spiritual, communal, eternal.

    So, ask the Lord for what you need this Christmas, this new year. Trust the Messiah in the manger, and the Christ risen and present at this Table to be your eternal source of sustenance, offering you the hope, peace, joy, and love you need for today, tomorrow, and always.

  • Reflection-The Gift of Nothingness

    Why do migraines and headaches haunt me daily?Cloudless Blue Sky

        Why do ailments, stress and anxiety accompany many of us?

    What does our mind and body and soul desire

         in our 140-character, sound-bite, tech-drenched world?


    Perhaps our inner self wants nothing - the gift of nothing.

    What if my body had nothing to do; how would it feel?

        Just resting, being upheld by the bed of creation and relaxing into the weight of it.

    All dis-ease and impurities can crumble to the bottom of my being

        and slide out the open chakra at the bottom of my feet.


    How deeply can I let my body do nothing, need nothing, feel nothing?

    Can I allow my body and soul to be in suspense without need or urgency,

        just present to the void, the space, the emptiness?

    What can nothing release?

    What can nothing regenerate?


    How can I give my mind the gift of nothing?

    I spend my devotions reading spiritual sages, poetry, assurances of the presence of God;

        I imagine meadows or beaches in the mind of my Spirit to see God's presence;

    I rattle off questions about what I am to do today and in life

        with a spiritual list of clarifying inquiries that demand immediate answers.

    But what if my mind and spiritual imagination desire the gift of nothing?

        Nothing to imagine as God's presence, but just to be.

    Nothing to read about peace, just the absence of thoughts, needs, directions, questions, insights.


    When I can give my mind and soul the gift of nothing, perhas the urgent pain will recede.

    I can listen to my own body functioning -

        the high-pitched buzz of my nervous system,

        the pulsing of blood

        the steady thump of my heart.


    Maybe my mind doesn't want more medicine, it wants more of nothing;

    A presence to everything, the absence of everything, the presence of nothing -

    Can nothing lower the sound of the inner buzz, slow the pulsing, breathing that is me

        And enter into the void that is God?

    The constant presence of sacred energy that is not managed, just noticed?


    Nothing is the place of creation -

        the void before atoms collide,

        the darkness of the soul buried in the ground,

        the dropping of the grain into air, earth

        the chrysalis hiding in the dark,

        the tomb of the 2nd day.


    Perhaps only when we enter nothing do we become fully present.

    Only when we enter the gift of nothingness

        do we become the void where God creates newness of life

        without our assistance.


    Nothingness is freedom.

    St. Ignatius of Loyola beckons me to see God in everything

        and be attached to nothing,

    To see God as fully present in every molecule

        and myself as fully present in nothingness.