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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tending Your Manger

by Lauren Van Ham

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity,
but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

~ Dag Hammarskjold

Do you have childhood memories, like me, of unpacking and creating the nativity scene in your home during the Advent season?  We had a few of them at my house: the one my parents brought back from their visit to Jerusalem, the ones my brother and I made from uncooked macaroni noodles in Sunday School, and the teeny-tiny one with a fake tree and baby Jesus that were irresistible toys for the cats.  “Has anyone seen the baby Jesus?” my Mom would question, her head poking under the chairs and shelves, hoping to repair the fragmented story and invite its anticipated outcome.

Years later, in the home of my spiritual director, I stood dazzled and mesmerized by her nativity, an annual original creation, that covered her entire dining table.  Every animal figurine you can (and can’t) imagine - scorpions, dolphins, emus and dogs, serpents, chickens, and unicorns - were making their way across the loooooooong dining table to see the new baby.  Seeing the scene depicted in this grand and cosmic way, allowed me to expand its scope.  I could find myself in new facets of the story. 

Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart nudged each of us to consider the Christmas story this way when he wrote, “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?”

The longest night of the year is passed, Christ is born and the Light has returned.  But the events of Advent have only just happened.  If we heed Eckhart’s words, it puts us right about here: we experienced angels, and endured long travel; with anticipation and uncertainty, we arrived in a new place, simple and earthy, inconvenient and unfamiliar.  And there – right there! – Divinity arrived.  In us, for us, through us, beyond us.

How will you bond with this new arrival?  How, in these first, fragile days, will you tend this Child?  What would you like to share about this exciting, tender, joy beginning at this time?

Peace and Blessings to you as the New Year dawns!

About Lauren: Lauren lives in Berkeley, CA.  She serves as Dean at The Chaplaincy Institute, an interfaith seminary and tends a her private as a spiritual director.  You can read Lauren’s blog at: http://www.laurenvanham.com/

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