While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. (Lk. 2:6-7)
When my schedule permits, I visit some inmates in a reentry program at the county jail. The program is for veterans and it’s called, “Stars and Stripes.”
The holidays are especially difficult for them. When I was with them before Christmas one year I read the story of Jesus’ birth. I then asked them this question: “What can the story of Jesus being born in a stable because there was no place in the inn, born and laid in an animals’ feeding trough, born to parents who were confused about who this child might become, say to you right now and right here in this prison cell?”
Some responded to my question, but most of them just wanted to talk about their sadness and shame about being there, and about how much they missed their families.
I had thought their reflections were over and I was about to say a closing prayer when one guy raised his hand. I called on him and he said, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. He had to be born in just that way. If He could be born in those conditions, He can be born anywhere, at anytime, to anyone. Maybe Mary wrapped Baby-Jesus in orange cloths. Yep, bet she did. Guys just imagine Baby-Jesus looking just like one of us.”
I have no more encouragement to give than what that prisoner-theologian shared. The story of Jesus’ birth can’t be proclaimed more clearly or distinctly or powerfully. Jesus can indeed be born again anywhere, at anytime, to anyone—even in prisoners, even in the lost, broken, and needy, even in us.
- What is your manger? That is, what are the situations, places, and circumstances where you need the presence, peace, and hope of Jesus to be born again in you?
- How do you respond to the message from the message,“Guys, just imagine Baby-Jesus looking just like one of us?” Are you comforted or disturbed? Attracted or repelled? How come?
- So many at Christmas want everything to be perfect. We tastefully decorate our homes to commemorate an event that took place in dire conditions. Why is Jesus being born in such difficulty, displacement, and duress part of God’s perfect plan?
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