Stay in the manger, Baby Jesus, safe in your swaddling clothes. Safe in the manger where we can adore you without fear. Snug in your manger, Jesus, so we may immortalize you in a sanitized barn. Secure in a rustic manger where the cow is your biggest competition, far away from the human hubris that will appropriate your meaning to our advantage. Stay there in your manger so we might keep you forever, without having to worry that you might hallow the streets and condemn the sanctuaries. Sleep surrounded in your manger by the outcasts and the foreigners (the obedient poor and one Black friend, depending on ceramic configuration), so we might be content allowing others to come to us. Stay put in your manger, Baby Jesus, snuggle up with us into the beauty of Christmas — we don’t want to go anywhere.
Who listens to the mothers weeping
and measures the river of their tears?
Who counts the footsteps of the refugees
and hallows a sanctuary in the wilderness?
Who weighs the burdens atop the distressed
and lends a holy hand to help bear the load?
Who paces the days like the caged circus lion
and longs to leap with the power of justice?
Who calculates the time of our mere flesh
yet fails to gauge the flow of holy grace?
Who but the One whose own tears
are the earth’s very oceans;
whose steps make the ground sacred; whose
scars are the jealousies of Cain against Abel;
yet whose love goes willfully unmeasured?
Who indeed, but the LORD God alone?
Do not be afraid to see
the raging upheaval of the world,
the truth of its struggles and its demons.
Do not be afraid to hear
the wails of those in mourning,
the moans of those birthing a new day.
Do not be afraid to taste
the bitter herbs of a people’s diet,
the sweat from razing mountains and valleys.
Do not be afraid to carry
the broken cup to the weary traveler,
the banquet table down from its fenced-off altar.
Do not be afraid to bear
the love of God into the flesh of life,
the ashes of humanity before the Ultimate One.
Praying for the woman who is wandering,
that she might know every footstep
is still within your care.
Praying for the woman who is choking back tears,
that she might not be afraid of her memories
…or of her hopes.
Praying for the woman who is working relentlessly,
that she might be gentle with herself in defiance
of the world’s burdens.
Praying for the woman who is holding life together,
that she might finally believe in an Incarnate Life
without bandages and duct tape.
In every heartache,
the certainty that we have loved.
In every lingering doubt,
the certainty that love must matter.
In every mother wailing,
the certainty that love unites us.
In every raging outcry,
the certainty that love will win.
In every waking nightmare,
the certainty that we need love.
In every corner of heaven,
the certainty that Your love is sure.