Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.
I am sure that each and every one of you recognises the beginning of this very famous Christmas Carol, one that I am have no doubt will be sung a fair few times over the festive period. And you all then of course know what you expect to come next, what words you expect to follow; who it is that we usually say will be laying down his sweet head in that animal’s food trough in the next line – namely the little Lord Jesus.
But as I write these words there is a little bit of a to do in the press over the suggestion that one possible answer to this question could actually be something rather less holy – a half-eaten sausage roll. Yes, one particularly famous seller of pies and pastries has produced a mock Advent Calendar in an attempt to sell their wares during this festive period. And in one picture this has involved the portrayal of the three wise men gazing with adoration, not at the Christ child in its make shift cot, but instead at a manger filled with the aforementioned pork and pastry snack combination – and one that has had at least part of the end bitten off.
Thankfully for me, whilst this is a very silly picture and of course a very silly idea indeed, there seem to have been precious few aggressively angry responses to this from those who would speak for Christians in our country – and this not just because I happen to be a particular fan of sausage rolls. No, whilst I do not see it as particularly fitting that a retailer should aim to sell pies and the like by using a feeble joke based around the arrival of Christ in the world, this for me is actually on a par with several Christmas cards that I received from friends, and even members of my congregations last year that had such as three peas sat in a pod wearing tea towels above the phrase “peas on earth”. Or even more clearly one that had a couple of small circles of plastic wrapped cheese sat in a manger above the words “the little baby cheeses”. Both of which were given and accepted with tongue in cheek and with groans alongside chuckles.
But what I do want to be clear on, is that whilst whatever is or was or ever will be shown in a manger within our modern world doesn’t really matter to me, what is crucial is that we remember who it was that was actually in that manger all those years ago in Bethlehem and what His being there meant. Whilst it doesn’t particularly matter to me who or what people show in a silly joke based around the Nativity scene, what I do feel very strongly is that the whole world needs to be aware and know who it is that actually was in that stable all those years ago, and respond to this. Namely the little Lord Jesus of that carol – the Son of God come down to earth. And crucially as I said that they not just know this but also show this, and not least through offering, not peas, but peace on earth.
We live in a world that is often one free from peace for many and it is exactly because of this that Christmas can and should be such a wonderful time: a time to enjoy fun and laughter with people around us, when perhaps at other times we can’t. And this is also the reason that God saw fit to send His Son into the world in the first place, to rid the world of those things that are the opposite of the peace that Christ the Prince of Peace brought and can still bring into the world, an event that can and should go hand in hand with such joy.
And so, however we celebrate this news, the news of God coming down to earth, to save that earth and to offer us the gift of eternal life; whether with a mince pie, sausage roll or turkey sandwich or whatever, what is important is that what fills our hearts and our minds at this Christmas time and on into the New Year is the one who truly filled that manger all those years ago, because He had no crib for a bed, Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas! AndyWhen all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze