Advent Candles: Christ Candle
We have arrived at the last candle in our Advent Candle series, the Christ Candle. Originally, our plan was to have a post sharing how you saw Christ in disability. Unfortunately, we only got one response, but I love the simple power of that response: "He is able."
This reminded me of something I wrote earlier this week that I didn't really have a home for, but after reading this response, made me realize that it perfectly amplified the message in this response. Our King is able to take the most humble and terrible situations, and sanctify them in ways we cannot imagine.
If you were like me, you grew up with an image of the nativity taking place in a small barn, with fresh, clean straw to lay in the manger, Mary looking fondly down at her son with Joseph standing over her, farm animals quietly gathering around to look at the new baby. There might even be a couple of shepherds with a lamb, or three regally dressed wise men standing in the background. It inspires so many of the songs we celebrate the holiday season with: "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," "O Holy Night," the list goes on.
The images these songs conjure, and the story I just told you, are a fantasy of a perfect nativity. In reality, Jesus came into the world amid chaos and exhaustion, as Mary and Joseph took shelter in a cave that had been repurposed as a shelter for livestock. Surrounded by noisy animals, exhausted after a long journey, laying on a trail-dusted cloak, Our Savior came into the world not in a picture of serene peace, but an image of chaos and confusion. Young Mary, miles from her family and home, in a noisy hell that stank of animal feces without a clean place to lay her head, delivered her son into her husband's calloused hands.
When we see the miracle in this light, it presents a different image of Christ's Nativity. It shows us the extent of the burden placed on Mary, and her willingness to follow the will of God, even to a smelly, animal-filled cave.
It is in this image that we see the words of the Magnificat, Mary's hymn of celebration from Luke 1, come to life:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
It is a song of humility, a demonstration of the character her son would have. As Israel looked for a conqueror, a mother prepared for the arrival of a lamb. As she lay in the cave, holding her child, I wonder if Mary thought of her words, and saw the truth in them. When the shepherds, dirty and stinky from their time in the fields, came to praise her son, I wonder if she saw those of humble estate being exalted, those who were hungry for salvation being filled, if she saw divine mercy being extended to a fallen world.
As we celebrate Christmas, amid the hustle and bustle of our modern world, as we take in the beautiful decorations and open our perfectly wrapped gifts, we would do well to remember the Magnificat. The humility of Christ's Nativity should be the theme of our celebration. The words of a young mother, little more than a girl, should echo in the season louder than the screaming carols and the laughter of our feast. Our God came, not into a perfect nativity scene, but into the arms of weary travelers taking shelter in the only place they can find.
To this day, he takes shelter in the hearts of weary travelers, those with the humility to seek the comfort and peace only he can provide.
The proud have been scattered.
The rich have been sent empty away.
The mighty have been pulled from their thrones.
And once the decorations are brushed away and the embellishments are ignored, we are left with a story of a God who came willingly to humble circumstances to be exalted above all.