Nine Visitors to the Manger: A Christmas Meditation
Instructions: This meditation is meant to be read aloud to a group, but can simply be read by individuals. Don’t rush through it. Give space and pause between the visitors to reflect and let your feelings seep into your soul.
Every year, millions visit the manger of Bethlehem. Some want to give something, while others hope to take something special away from the experience. After reading this through, or having someone read this to you, I invite you to try this meditation:
Close your eyes. Imagine a quiet night, starlight beginning to dot a dark countryside. Breathe in the crisp air of the cool night and let the breath fill and renew you. A group of visitors approach the hillside cave that serves as a stable.
Hear the clip, clip of determined footsteps as Anger strives so hard to do things right, to fix all the carelessness others have created. Deep in his heart, Anger simmers at the injustice and absurdity of God’s son being born under these conditions. As he looks at the babe, he senses an invitation to let go. The babe seems to say, “I care. Trust me. Let go of your need to fix my world. I am come in the fullness of time.” (Pause)
The next visitor steps forward in Pride, striving to see how she can contribute, what she can add to make this scene complete. The glance of the baby stills her mind. “There is nothing to give, nothing to do,” the eyes of the baby say. “Everything we need is already here. Enjoy this moment with me.” (Pause)
The third guest, Deceit, comes forward with pity in her eyes. Can anything good come out of such bleak, humble beginnings? It will take a miracle and lots of hard to work to make something out of this. The baby’s eyes stop her in her tracks. “Relax,” the babe seems to say, “This enterprise is bigger than you think. What God has promised, it will come to pass.” (Pause)
Envy, the fourth visitor, rushed forward to see the babe and was disappointed to find no glowing aura, just a baby wrapped in common cloths, lying in a filthy manger, cooing. Reluctantly she looked at the mother gazing on her child. Love flowed between mother and child pulsing with a life force that gathered Envy in, connecting her to the babe and encircling her in the warmth of their presence. (Pause)
The fifth guest hugged the far stable wall, hiding, concerned that someone might expect something from him like a gift, and he knew he had nothing to spare. The gaze of the child beckoned Greed to edge closer and let go of fear, realizing the baby has all he needs. The child’s eyes say, “I invite you to share freely what I have without reserve.” (Pause)
Fearful approaches the manger scanning all around, seeing all that’s lacking, afraid of what the future will be for this child. But the baby cooed, fearless in spite of the setting and Fearful recalled to mind the words of the angels, “Do not be afraid, for this is good news of great joy for all people. Today is born a Savior.” (Pause)
Then Extravagance rushed in, not wanting to be late, caught up in the excitement of a new baby. “We can’t have God in this smelly stable, I’m sure there’s something else that can be arranged, let me work on it.” The baby takes this moment to burp, then smile at our seventh visitor causing him to pause. The smile seems to say, “I like it here, why don’t you stay with me awhile, much will be happening, tears of pain and tears of joy, but it will all be good.” (Pause)
The eighth visitor, Violence, looks down at the baby and the innocence of the newborn fills his heart with trepidation. “What is God thinking?” he booms in a voice that startles everyone. The baby cries at the sound, breaking the mood, demanding that he be attended to now. The truth shines bright and noisily, that God is not helpless and will not be ignored. (Pause)
Self-forgetting, the ninth and final caller feels like a guest, overwhelmed with the sense that everyone else deserves to be there. She slips into the background. Slowly she lifts her eyes to see the baby choosing to fix a gaze on her, full of compassion and love. It is as if only the two of them are in the room and she realizes she belongs there. (Pause)
So the last visitor dares to take another’s hand and as if on cue, one by one, they all join hands and move out into the night. They are now bound to one another through an experience and wonder of a child; redeemed with a glance from God made flesh and come to live among us. Redeemed by following a way that leads to faith, hope and love.
Rev. Andrea Andress