“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 place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
With these unassuming words, Luke announces the Incarnation of our Lord. Jesus, born of Mary, was wrapped tightly in linen cloth and laid in a feeding trough. The wrapping provided warmth and uniform pressure to the newborn. His mother would be his source of food. His surroundings, in cave that provided shelter and food for sheep, reminds us all of why he came.
Luke’s account of Mary and Joseph, two weary refugees turned away from human habitation, places Jesus in the heart of our own poverty. He came to us on the edges of civilization, in a shelter for sheep, in order to draw us back into the center of God’s Kingdom. He is laid in a feeding trough to become bread for a broken world.
The Holy Night of Christmas is an opportunity to stand in our own poverty and broken dreams and offer them up as a resting place for God. The Incarnation, so many thousands of years ago, is a promise to each one of us that God continues to rest here, deep within each of us, in the most unlikely places. While we fight for justice, freedom, and peace in our world we are asked to do the same within our own spiritual lives.
Jesus is born in poverty because that is who He has come to save. We are saved by admitting our own helplessness. How are we bound with swaddling clothes and protected from the truth of our vulnerability? How do we invite Jesus into this tender and hidden place so that he can transform us?
At the end of Luke’s Gospel Jesus is again wrapped tightly in a linen cloth, but not by Mary. This time it is Joseph (of Arithmathea) who wraps him and lays him in a new stone tomb. Like Jesus, we emerge from the cave of birth and head toward our own cave of death. And because of Jesus, we need never fear. By emancipating us from death he gives us the power to effect change in life. May we live into the change he calls us to:
“Peace on earth and goodwill to all whom he favors.” Luke 2:14