We live inside a box formed by time & space. Standing at the edge of that reality, peering beyond, we see, as the Apostle wrote, through a glass darkly and our mind fills with haze and vapor. We just can’t go there as nothing inside compares with the outside (so far as we know). Carl Jung posits the need for a point of reference outside the conditions of present reality.
Carl Jung, “It is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life when there is a point of reference outside them.”
Andreas Wagner, “All we know and experience is mediated through matter. If we step on a sharp object, the material known to us as a foot, begins to phone home: pain, pain, puncture, puncture, what is it? Pull it out right now. The change in message from my foot requires a change in the matter of my foot. Wagner concludes by saying, “Matter impacts meaning.”
Andreas Wagner, “we overlook that there is no conversation without matter, and similarly, that any change in the meaning of a signal requires a change in matter. Matter impacts meaning.”
We need two things to make sense of anything and everything.
1. What we must have then, is a point of reference beyond the time & space container in which we live.
2. And that reference point will be experienced through matter which is the only way we know how to know anything.
Before the foundation of the world, The Holy Trinity promulgated the incarnation. The Second Person of the Trinity, coming from eternity into time and space fully material to promulgate salvation. Matter impacts meaning and Divine matter imparts ultimate meaning.
Nativity story begins with an enrollment. The early enrollment that precedes the birth of Christ alludes to the “enrollment in heaven” that is his birth’s consequence. As he said to his disciples, “Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you but rather rejoice, because you names are written in heaven.”
The Christ-child is born and laid in a manager because there was no room for them in the inn. Like the birth of this child the origin of this son of God is outside the inn of the world and laid in a MANGER.
Interesting word, MANGER The Greek Old Testament uses the same word Kibotos (kib-o-tos)
The manger in the Bethlehem stable.
The manger signifies emptiness that is to be filled. The container available and waiting to be filled with the precious gift of God, the gift of the Son.
In this box, we live in time and space. To this ark, this Manger of time and space, is born a material reference point: Jesus the Christ.
Now, let me string together reflections by the Church Father on this great night.
In this manger Mary puts Jesus wrapped in swaddling bands (KJV). As Gregory of Nazianzus puts it, He was wrapped in swaddling bands, but at the resurrection he released the swaddling bands of grace. He was laid in a manger but was praised by angels, disclosed by a star and adored by magi.”
Inmost crèches and art of the nativity you find animals around the manger, always an ox and always an ass, why because of the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib.”
On a humorous aside. Last night (Christmas Eve) at the family service performed the traditional Christmas Pageant. Children were dressed as all the usual suspects. I did have to intervene when one little girl announced she wanted to be a pig at the manager scene. “No pigs,” I pronounced! Even though Memphians revere all things porcine, especially in its myriad of eatable forms, there was still no pig at the manager.
After the Church Fathers, the Venerable Bede, whose tomb lies at one end of Durham Cathedral, wrote in the 7th century, “He who sits at the right hand of the Father goes without shelter from the inn, that he may for us prepare many mansions in the house of his heavenly Father. Hence we have ‘because there was no room for him in the inn.’ He was born not in the house of his parents but at the inn, by the wayside, because through the mystery of the incarnation be is become the Way by which he guides us to our home, where we shall also enjoy the Truth and the Life.”
Luke ends the nativity gospel in fields near Bethlehem where the angel of the Lord proclaims, this day is born to you a savior who is Christ, The Lord, Savior = God’s activity come to earth, Christ/Messiah/the anointed one, the Lord, the prince of peace.
So there you have it. The story that begins this night with this Mass in the mid-night, ends on Easter Eve after the fall of darkness, but in that darkness has come a great light.
A latter day Church Father, C.S. Lewis, once wrote, “What a terrible place the world would be if it were always winter and never Christmas.” Unfortunately there is not much winter (70 degrees but thank God for 30 ton air-conditioners) but it is Christmass!
We are not alone, the Christ Child, the only Son of God, has come to be born in us. To Him be honor and glory now and forever. Amen.
©John W. Sewell
The Feast of the Incarnation
December 25, 2015