We Remember Our Lord

By Larry Harris

The little barn was defined by fine vertical stripes of dim yellow light that leaked out between its sideboards.  An oil lamp glowed within.  But the animals had never known a nightlight.  Something indeed was afoot.  Beyond the usual sounds of shifting hooves and an occasional oxen snort, a muffled male voice spoke in hushed, comforting tones.

Then a woman’s cries pierced the night.  Cries of great pain.  The cries of birth.  Attended only by a timid Joseph and some curious livestock, a child came into the world.  And so it came to pass that in a birthing venue of last resort — an old barn laced with dusty cob webs and reeking of leathery animal stink — the newborn Savior drew his first breath and cried in his mother’s arms.  The promise of old, at last, was fulfilled.

In the sweet afterglow of the night’s trauma, shepherds appeared out of the dark, pausing in wonder at the stable’s entrance.  Then slowly venturing in, they bent low in reverence and awe, and fell on their knees before the swaddled baby that now lay sleeping in the animals’ feeding trough.  A startled Mary and her Joseph wondered how they knew.

Love came down to a hateful world that night.  Improbable as it seemed to all but the few who were let in on the divine plan, the Jesus of that lowly birth became a guiding star for the wandering masses, a vision of hope for a doomed world given over to cruelty and greed and wars and vain pursuits.  He lent a future to all people of all time, for without that child, none of us would possess even a whisper of assurance that we might somehow avoid an eternity without His Father.

The child Jesus became the man Jesus.  Never ranging more than a few miles from the stable of His birth, He trod the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee, gifting sight to the blind, infusing limbs of the lame with fullness and strength, restoring life to the dead, presenting the poor and the outcast with a reason to live, driving the money-trading thieves and swindlers from the temple, teaching us of mercy and forgiveness by shaming a circle of hypocrites into dropping the stones they were about to hurl at a woman of the night, and bathing all He met, and all generations to come, in his Holy light of love.

But He proved too good for us.  Thirty-three years after His birth in that Bethlehem barn, we killed Him.  He willingly lay down on His cross, stretched out His arms, and accepted the executioner’s spikes as they were driven through His innocent hands.  His death was a trademark Roman execution — slow and tortuous as could be.

In reality, though, the killing was no execution.  Cold-blooded murder is what it was.  Murder by blind, misguided fools.

That dark afternoon as He hung abandoned on the cross, His precious lifeblood dripping into Golgotha’s dust, I imagine the humble stable of His birth, just a morning’s walk to the east.  Maybe it was not fallen to disrepair, in the way old things are prone to do.  Maybe the roof had caved in.  Maybe the manger was crushed and broken.  Maybe no one had cared enough to sort the rubble and restore things as they were on that wondrous night.

Now twenty centuries down the line, that primitive stable most surely is gone to dust.  Not a trace remains.  It exists only in sacred text, on Christmas cards, and in the imaginings of believers’ hearts.  But the child born beneath its sheltering canopy lives on.  He changed the world, He brought us love, and it is His life we celebrate in our own.

             Adapted from “Reflections” (December, 2012)

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