Warning: This post is politically incorrect on so many levels. Sometimes, that’s not a bad thing.
One night, long ago, a weary couple arrived in a small town called Bethlehem. There was a convention with all the descendants of King David crammed together for a census, so that the Romans could decide where to build the best schools and aqueducts. Mary and Joseph arrived late, so all the Inns were overbooked. One innkeeper told them they could stay in the barn, but there were no more rollaway cots, and no room service.
Mary was two weeks overdue in her pregnancy and probably a little cranky, but they made do the best they could. That night, she went into labor. After hours of sweating and cursing at Joseph, she brought forth her firstborn son. They had no crib, so they laid him in a manger. Yes, people, Jesus was a cute little manger muffin. Sure, there were angels singing and shepherds visiting, but Jesus was just what he seemed—a baby.
That’s the point of Christmas. God chose to send his son to earth the same way that you and I arrived. Jesus nursed, he spat up on Mary’s good robes just as she was getting ready to leave the house, and he pooped his swaddling clothes. As we celebrate the divine, let’s not forget the mortal, which may be the most important part of Christmas.
Jesus was an extraordinary baby living under ordinary circumstances. He was God’s gift to men.
When my daughters were seven and five, we moved to Spain. On Christmas Eve we attended our first Misa del Gallo—Mass of the rooster. The church was packed, and we arrived late. We had to stand in the back, where the kids couldn’t see and they couldn’t understand the Spanish service. We gave up and left a few minutes after midnight and started through the town square to go to the car. A life size manger scene was set up in the middle of the square, and sometime during the church service, the figure of Jesus was laid in the manger. We stood, entranced at the beauty of the scene.
This is the season when we give gifts and get stressed out in our attempts to make lasting memories for our kids. If you ask my kids their favorite Christmas tradition, they’ll tell you it’s laying the baby Jesus in the manger scene every Christmas Eve at midnight.
I’m not here to tell you how to celebrate Christmas. I fully respect the beliefs of others, but if your Faith permits it, celebrate. Christmas doesn’t have to be lavish to be memorable. God already gave us a gift to pass along to our family and friends.