December 24, 2017
Posted: December 24, 2017
A Devotion for Your Day
by Rick Summy
Isaiah 1:3, Luke 2:1-20
The words are ancient and belong to Isaiah. But perhaps they are words for us as well.
"The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's manger; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."
Her eyes are bright and new, her walk a contrast - slow, careful, meticulous, each step effort-full. "Well, that's the way it goes, yep," she says. But her face still wonders why. Finally, she sits softly in a hard chair and props up the failing legs that stand only to slow her down and that speak with every step a taunt, a reminder that she can no longer do what she used to do without pain.
"Well, that's the way it goes," she says. Her eyes lift, searching for something far off.
They are bright and talented and faithful. People are always glad to be with them. They are surrounded by friends. But beneath the surface, deep inside, there are shadows that haunt, wilderness that threatens to overgrow and consume. For one, childhood scars continue to be scratched open by those who inflicted them in the first place. For the other, a surface silence hides the raging agony of deepest loss.
Why is it that this is the way it sometimes goes?
These are our lives. A mixed bag of disappointment and discovery, of distraction and joy, of highlight and tragedy, of frustration and blessed communication. Mundane much of the time. Surprised by joy some of the time. Haunted by moments of sudden silence, glimpses of nagging insight, by a pinprick feeling that something is a bit off center. Somewhere along the line we have lost the comforting instincts of others animals, who know whose they are and where they belong.
Even so, surrounded by the darkness around us and haunted by the shadows within, we gather on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of a child. And perhaps we will find in our mind's eye what the angel-heralded shepherds found. Mary and Joseph and a child wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in...a manger.
A manger. When Luke wrote this wonderful story he had Isaiah in mind. An ancient lament is met by present fulfillment. And now, perhaps, we begin to know why we gather each year to hear again this story we know by heart. Into lives with darkness around and shadows within, God has given us a gift of good news and great joy - Jesus the Christ is born.
Before the glory of the Lord stops shining this night, perhaps we will understand that this child is God with us, God among us, God one of us - that this child is the one who is, for us, the crucified and risen Lord.
Before the singing of the heavenly host is drowned out by the rumblings of the new year, maybe we will realize that this is no romantic fairy tale, a story spun for the entertainment of children, but is rather a matter of life and death. In this one whose birth we celebrate there is life!
The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's manger. Now we know the manger of our Lord. One who was born long ago and far away is still present among us. The Spirit of the risen Christ blows in and among and through our sometimes dusky lives.
When it comes right down to it, that's the way it goes.
Lord, fill us with light and life on this day of celebration. Grant us sight enough to see you at work in the world, trust enough that we might have faith that you know where to find us, and love enough to respond to your grace by caring for those in need. Amen.
Rick Summy serves as Senior Pastor.
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