Tuesday, December 23, 2014

God in a Box

"...the baby lying in a manger" (Luke 2:16).

The manger is mentioned three times in the Christmas Gospel.  It must be significant.

manger, n.  A trough or open box in which fodder is placed for horses or cattle.

Have you ever heard the expression, "You can't put God in a box"?  Maybe you've even used it.  I think I know what it means.  It means you can't limit God.  You can't contain Him.  You can't put boundaries on Him.  You can't say, "He is exactly like this."  We can't possibly fit all of the infinite God into our finite human thoughts.

And I agree wholeheartedly.  You can't put God in a box.  I can't.  We can't.

But here's the Christmas thing: God can, and did.  For that is the meaning of Christmas and the significance of the manger: God putting Himself in a box and inviting us to look inside.

Christmas may be understood, and well understood, as God in a box.  As the Infinite now finite.  As the Uncontainable now contained.  And as the Incomprehensible now comprehensible to poor mortal sinners.

In the words of Luther's Christmas hymn: "Ah, Lord, though You created all, How weak You are, so poor and small, That You should choose to lay Your head Where lowly cattle lately fed!"

This Christmas look for God and find Him in Bethlehem's box.  Look for no other idea about God than this.  Look not up to heaven but down beneath you.  There He lies, so contained, and yet all of God.  All of His love.

And pray, "O Lord Jesus, be contained now within my heart.  Amen."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Round Yon Virgin

"Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son..." (Isa. 7:14).

"Silent Night" may well be the most beloved Christmas carol.  It dates back to the year 1818.  The English translation of the German original contains the following lines:

All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.

I admit that for many years I have happily sung these words without really understanding their meaning - in particular, "Round yon."  Maybe you can relate!

After studying the matter, I offer this simple explanation.  The sentence can be understood as though it were written, "All is calm, all is bright around yonder virgin mother and child."

"Yon" is a poetic little adjective telling us that a virgin mother and her baby are "just over there, not far."  It's as though we are being pointed in the direction of the stable from which is coming a calm and a light.  Let us go!

The world, as we know, can be a dark and troubled place.  Christmas reveals the only Source of lasting peace and hope for such a world: the Child born of a virgin mother.

Let us sing sweetly of this hope!