The meekness of the manger
While Jesus’ advent was meek, what he gave us is invaluable. This season and beyond, each of us can pause to humbly acknowledge Jesus’ example and walk forward drawing on the healing goodness God freely provides to all.
Maybe you’ve heard about the interesting experiment performed by some employees of The Washington Post. They arranged for world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell to play one morning at the entrance of a downtown subway station. Mr. Bell often performs to standing-room-only audiences, but as he played his $3.5 million Stradivarius there at the subway station, wearing jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a baseball cap, no one recognized him. Of the 1,000-plus people who walked by, only seven stopped to listen!
The setting was far different from any of his sold-out concerts – no tuxedo, no white bow tie, no huge stage flooded with lights, no esteemed patrons. Yet, although given freely in a humble setting, the performance was most certainly as valuable and beautiful as others he had given.
This reminds me of another day, this one over 2,000 years ago. This beautiful time of year often prompts one to think more deeply about the circumstances of Jesus’ arrival. On the surface, it was such a plain and humble event. Jesus’ advent had been prophesied more than 700 years before his birth, yet his first resting spot was a feeding trough for livestock. The Bible describes how Mary, Jesus’ mother, “brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7).
But his meek beginning there in a manger diluted none of Jesus’ import for all humanity. On the night of his birth, only a handful of people came to visit Jesus. Today, so many recognize and put to use the gifts of inspiration that he embodied. In the words of the Bible, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Corinthians 2:12).
“The spirit which is of God” can be seen as the uplifting, freeing, and transforming inspiration for which humanity always hungers. This spirit is the Christ, God’s message of love for all, which Jesus so completely expressed that it’s reflected in the title so connected with him that we almost think of it as his name: Christ Jesus.
As they were for Jesus back then, so God’s Christly communications are our answers to prayer today. The Christ is the message of God’s perfection and our true, spiritual identity as the expressions of His wholeness. This never goes away or diminishes.
Yet, like those busy subway commuters listening to Bell’s music, we have to pause to hear and receive these divine gifts, or inspiration. As illustrated by Jesus lying meekly in the manger, God’s loving messages to us often don’t arrive along with trumpets and fireworks. They often arrive in our thoughts simply, quietly, along with a deep sense of God’s limitless love.
Meekness and humility allow God’s loving messages that redeem and heal to penetrate and change for the better the way we think and act, including the message learned from the life of Jesus. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy observes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “In vain do the manger and the cross tell their story to pride and fustian” (p. 142).
Pride, I remember, had to be put down when someone once cheated me in a business agreement. How could this happen to me? It seemed reasonable to feel angry, but I realized acting on emotions fueled by a sense of hurt pride wouldn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until I humbly turned to God in prayer that this spiritual insight came to me: God is the source of all of the goodness in existence. As His spiritual offspring, at one with God, each of us is always at one with His goodness, too. It actually couldn’t be taken from me! I hadn’t known that before.
I was so inspired by this Christly good news that the pride that had been blinding me lifted. New ways forward were revealed, and within a year, what was lost in that business deal was restored, and so much more.
“Be of good cheer,” Jesus said. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). While Jesus’ advent was meek, what he gave us through word and example is invaluable because it is spiritual truth. This holiday season and always, we can stop often to acknowledge Jesus’ example and walk forward drawing on the healing goodness God freely provides.