After having been turned away from an inn, how grateful Mary and Joseph must have been to find shelter in the humble barn where Jesus was born. Reading the account from the book of Luke in the Bible, I can’t help but feel something of the tender quietude they found there.
It gives me the sense that the manger where the baby Jesus lay was more than a physical location. It represented a state of thought, an atmosphere of sacred reverence for the timeless Christ-idea – the forever relation of God to man, God’s pure, spiritual offspring – expressed as the baby Jesus. And it shows how God tenderly cares for the appearing of this idea, even in the face of malice and indifference.
This idea of the spiritual oneness of God and man appears in every age, every day, to the receptive thought that communes with God in prayer, and it brings healing. It does this by shifting thought from a fragmented view of man as separated from God into one of our unity with Him. This Christly view is always present, accessible to everyone, but it requires humility to discern it.
It can seem hard, with the press of family, work, school, and other demands, to nurture within ourselves this “manger” of quiet, prayerful thought. But I’ve found a helpful way to avail ourselves of manger-thought time is to be more aware of God’s provision of it in our lives.
In other words, it isn’t about willfully carving out communion time with God. God, divine Love, is actually providing angel messages, or inspiration, that lead us to these moments of stillness, even if we encounter indifference or opposition to our desire to carve out a quiet space in our lives for such prayer. In the Bible, the Psalmist describes how the shepherding love of God leads us “to lie down in green pastures” and to “still waters,” caring for us even “in the presence of ... enemies” (Psalms 23:2, 5).
This divine care is like armor against the barbs of ignorance, even hate, of divine Truth’s appearing. Referring to God as divine Love, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains, “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 454).
In the Christmas story this angelic guidance, manifested as a star and as joyful inspiration, led the shepherds and the wise men to the manger to honor the baby Jesus and to bear witness to the power and tenderness of God. And it comes to each one of us, helping us find moments of holy reverence, impelling us to bask in a conscious awareness of God as our divine creator and caregiver.
Science and Health explains: “The physical healing of Christian Science results now, as in Jesus’ time, from the operation of divine Principle, before which sin and disease lose their reality in human consciousness and disappear as naturally and as necessarily as darkness gives place to light and sin to reformation. Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural” (p. xi). Healing, then, is a matter of actively knowing and feeling our oneness with God, of honoring the Christ that is always right with us.
One December, we were looking forward to welcoming family to our home, but some last-minute changes to travel plans threatened to prevent their arrival. Despite this, I felt an insistent inspiration to be still and be grateful. So I prayed for some “manger quietude” to welcome the Christ-spirit into my thought, rather than giving in to disappointment.
A wordless assurance came over me that God is present with each one of us wherever we are and whomever we are (or aren’t) with, now and always. Others were praying with similar inspiration, and we all felt the comforting presence of God’s love. Soon, ideas for how to be together for Christmas came to light.
God’s presence and care were felt in other ways, too. For instance, during that visit our granddaughter inadvertently touched the hot wood stove. Several of us immediately affirmed the ever-presence of the comforting, healing Christ that we had been so sacredly acknowledging leading up to the visit. Within moments our granddaughter went back to playing, without pain or evidence of a burn.
At Christmas and every day, we can let God inspire stillness in us. In those quiet moments of prayer we can honor the ever-present Christ-idea that heals and redeems. What greater gift could there be?