In the Manger with Jesus

And she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn.    (Lk. 2:7)

I’d received a phone call from a distraught mother.  Her 30-something daughter had disappeared. The mother feared that her daughter—let me call her Abby—could have committed suicide. A few days later the family found her body.

During the next few days I learned more about Abby.  She had been a “star” until she went to college.  During her second year she began to unravel, and she was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.  For the next 10 years she struggled with her mental illness.  Eventually, it became too agonizing for her to live one more day.

When the family and I sat down to plan Abby’s funeral, someone expressed concern about her having committed suicide.  Should how she died be mentioned?  Abby’s mother quelled these questions.  There would be no ducking how her daughter had died.

We had the funeral a few days before Christmas.  The church was already decorated.  It was an odd mix of Christmas joy and terrible grief.

I decided to lean straight into the notion that suicide was an unforgivable sin, by proclaiming that what Jesus did on Good Friday totally covers all the sins we could ever commit.

I also talked about how none of us has any right to judge another person’s life—we just never know the pain anyone else goes through.

I then went off script.  I looked around the church, saw the Christmas decorations, and then looked down on the huge manger right below the pulpit.  I said, “Look into this manger.  Imagine the day Jesus was born.  Mary’s exhausted.  Joseph’s overwhelmed.  Baby Jesus lay in an animal’s feeding trough.  Well, there’s one more person in that manger.  Abby’s there.  Next to Jesus she’s healed, in her right mind, at peace, whole.  There’s room in the manger for Abby.  There’s room in the manger for us.”

I encourage you to pray about who in your life needs to be in the manger with Jesus.  There’s room in His manger for everyone.   For some, the person you may most need to see there is yourself.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Let me ask the question again. Who in your life do you need to place into the manger with Jesus?
  1. Do you believe that the Christ-child’s arms are extended to embrace all of God’s children? If not, isn’t it time to do so?
  1. There is a reason why Jesus was born in a messy manger. Do you believe that there is no mess in your life He will shun, no mess He cannot and will not forgive, no mess He can’t clean up and redeem, and no mess where He can’t be born again?

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