A Manger for a throne

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

In the gospel reading (Jn. 1:1-16), the evangelist John begins his gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.... And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." "In the beginning" were also the first words of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, when God did His work of creation. In using the same phrase, John is telling us that a new era has broken with the coming of the long-awaited One, God's only Son Jesus Christ, as our Savior.

It was this great historical event that Isaiah had in mind when we heard him exclaim in the first reading (Isa. 52: 7-10), "Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God." "Break out together in song" some people did (the "remnants of Israel") when "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." This event which happened two thousand years ago is what we have prepared for during Advent when we relive the longing and preparation of the Chosen People for the coming of the Savior.

Unparalleled and unrepeatable as this event is, the circumstances of the birth of Jesus look, at first glance, unbelievable and even scandalous. The "Word made flesh" born in a manger? Why in a smelly manger? Why not in a magnificent palace, amidst its splendor and glory, where children of the rulers of the world were and are born? Yet, this is so. Why is this so?

Perhaps we should be careful in asking the question "Why is this so?" because God may throw the question back at us and ask, "Why should it not be so?" Then we will grope for an answer. However, by spending some time meditating on the circumstances of the birth of Jesus, we may discover God's reason.

A brief article which I came across some time ago helped me better understand why Jesus was born in a manger, why He chose a manger for a throne. I would like to share the article with you and hopefully, it will also help you better understand the mystery of the manger. It goes as follows:

"No pope or emperor had ever done it before - having a manger for a throne! Only the God-made-Man had it.

"You may ask me why? Because in the order of creation a bed of straw lined with the dung of animals is just as priceless as a fine cushion of fine linen etched with gold and silver thread. Because what really counts is the sitter not the seat.

"Otherwise the simple of heart and the humble of mind would not have dared to come and worship the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. A figure of majesty and power could only repel them from his presence to remind them of oppressive taxes and occasional slaughter by the Roman Legions. Verily a manger for a throne and pulpit for the Good News of salvation could not have been more appropriate.

"What matters the smell of dung in lieu of royal fragrance? What matters the quiet credulity of the innocent vis-a-vis the haughty swaggers of hypocrites conditioned to lick imperial boots? Who among us can plumb the depth of divine humility for optimum effect versus all crafty human inventions?

"Behold the heavens opening wide its portals to let out a choir of angels and a guiding star for all the nations to see. For all men of goodwill to hear and hasten to confirm with pure faith in the fulfillment of God's covenant with his people.

"Swiftly forgotten the Fall and quickly remembered the Promise! Long, long years of waiting for the Messiah is finally ended as the Word made-flesh begins to renew the face of the earth.

"Come let us adore Him lying in a manger cold and starving for our love!" (Bartolome A. Bertos, "A Manger For A Throne")

Need more be said? No, except to leave you with a quote from one author who offers suggestions as to what to do with our lives after Christmas: "When the song of angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with the flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among brothers, to make music with the heart." Is this not what Jesus our Lord, the King who chose a manger for a throne, wants each one of us to do here and now and in the days to come if we want to remain as His true and faithful followers?

May you all have a Blessed Christmas!