Sometimes we find ourselves in a state very much like that in the Christmas story. Spiritually, it is night time. Pressure and stress are taxing us just as Caesar Augustus called all the world to be registered. There doesn’t seem to be any room for the Lord in our lives, just as there was no room in the inn for Mary and Joseph.
The good news is that no matter how bad things seem, there is always a place the Lord can be born. Even though the world was a dark place at the time of the Lord’s advent, there were many good people who were willing to listen: shepherds, wise men, Mary, and others. If we are willing to cooperate with Him, He will always reveal Himself. If we’re willing to listen, the Lord is always ready to meet us, as the angels told the shepherds in the field two thousand years ago, to tell us of a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
When the Lord came into the world, He chose to be born in a manger where horses are fed. A manger represents His Word: the place we go to find the Lord and to be fed by Him ourselves. The light the Lord’s advent brought allows everyone to be fed and strengthened through a deeper understanding of the Word. By coming into this world, the Lord gave us the ability to know Him and approach Him more directly. The Lord continues to tell us who He is and what He’s like in the Word. The Word is the fountain of life and doorway to our God.
If you’re feeling lost, wondering how to find the Lord in Bethlehem, go to the Word. Though we may find many excuses for not doing it, as soon as we pick up a copy and start reading, the Lord can be born into our lives.
Besides being born in a manger, the other sign of the Lord’s birth is that He would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. Swaddling clothes “signify first truths, which are truths of innocence, and which are also truths of the Divine love” (Apocalypse Explained 706). Part of the reason that the Lord was wrapped in swaddling clothes was to remind us of the innocence with which we need to approach Him. Imagine if the shepherds didn’t have the innocence to listen to the angels and go quickly to Bethlehem. Imagine if the wise men decided to stay home, unwilling to search for the Messiah. Thankfully, these people were willing to listen and to be affected by the good news of the Lord’s advent. We must try to have this innocence when we approach the Lord in His Word if we genuinely want to find Him there.
The swaddling clothes also represent truths of Divine Love. Simply put, these are teachings about loving the neighbor. We cannot have innocence in our lives without love toward the neighbor. The whole Word teaches us how to be more loving people. The Lord, Who is love itself, wants to share what is His own with others and make them happy. We can connect with the Lord by learning to love as He loves.
The image of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger illustrates where we can find the Lord. The manger represents the spiritual nourishment the Lord gives us in His Word–the good things He teaches. Swaddling clothes remind us of the innocence we need in approaching the Lord and the love for the neighbor. This Christmas, make room for the Lord in your life by seeking Him in His Word and sharing His love with others.
Rev. Matthew Genzlinger is the pastor of the New Church of Concord in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.newchurchconcord.org.