Sacred Space, Glorious Opportunity
Mary “gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space” (Luke 2:7, NJB).
What a place for God to make an appearance! Not the more commodious lodgings prepared for an apparent influx of people for a tax census, but a shelter for livestock, a stable, perhaps a simple cave with a feeding trough! By appearing there, God invests the place with the quality of magnificence and shows us the value we must assign to any location where God makes an appearance. Heavenly glory trumps earthly pomp to make each and every place worthy of respect as a potential locus for the manifestation of the living God.
A choir of angels had appeared to the shepherds who, struck by the news of the miraculous intervention in Bethlehem, traveled from the countryside nearby to the stable where the infant Jesus lay. In their vision, God had shown the shepherds that the divine one does not despise places deemed ordinary. When they arrived at the lowly place, they came into the presence of a defenseless baby who was God incarnate. In Christ, the second Adam, lying in a manger, God came to God’s own world (John 1:11) to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21).
The manifestation of the creator in a lowly place should certainly remind us of a constant challenge that is ours – the challenge to never regard any place as a location unworthy of a divine epiphany and therefore to be despised and considered out of bounds for those who worship God. We may discover that God is often found in unexpected places. Additionally, wherever and in whatever form God makes an appearance, we must respond by offering service in honor of the one whom we adore.
On the streets of our cities, in our urban slums and rural outposts, in mansions on hillsides and hovels on riverbanks, in forbidding places swept by desert winds and on fertile farmland rich with grain, God may make an appearance at any time. When God appears incognito, it is of utmost importance that we recognize the one who appears and make the right response.
Could it be that God appeared to you recently in the guise of a stranger living in your country without legal residential status? Or in the form of a street person shivering in the bitter cold or overwhelmed by the searing heat on the earth? Or as a person suffering from HIV/AIDS or dependent on drugs? Or as a beggar holding a sign asking for a hand-out or lying almost lifeless from the debilitating pangs of crippling hunger? How did you respond to your Lord? What did you say? What did you do?
During this season of celebration, may the Holy Spirit enable us to recognize when God appears before us draped in the rags of poverty, decked in the tattered clothes of delinquency, bearing the visage of a vagrant, an addict or a social outcast. And wherever God appears, may the ordinariness of the locale and the associated images that could repel us never dissuade us from swinging our arms wide open. Then, we may welcome and embrace the one who offers us a wonderful opportunity to realize the matchless riches of our humanity.
Baptist World Alliance®
© December 5, 2012
Message in other languages:
Mensaje de Navidad 2012
Message de Noël 2012
Poselstwo Bożego Narodzenia 2012
Mensagem de Natal 2012
Рождественское приветствие 2012 год