At the end of choir practice last week, our director, Larry shared with us a story from his go-to Christmas book, The Wonder of Christmas by Derric Johnson. The story is titled, “Let Me Be the Manger.” Eight-year old Joey lives in Southern California’s low income housing. One day, he takes a bus to a local church hosting kids for their Christmas party. Joey doesn’t have much time to get dressed, and he assumes it must be a costume party. So with funds limited and short on time, he decides to dress as a haystack. He stuffs his old brown sweater with weeds, even adding some straw on the outside. Imagine Joey’s shock when he arrives at the church to find it is a Christmas play, not a costume party. He hangs back, not getting involved, until he overhears the leaders saying that they can’t find the manger. Joey, looking down at his costume, speaks up: “I could be a box of hay.” Then laying down on the floor, he proclaims, “I’ll be your manger. Let Jesus be born in me.”
Oh to be like Joey, where we willingly offer to have Jesus born in us! Laying down, putting everything aside, saying: “Choose me! I will do it.”
It sounds so easy, but then I think of Mary…unwed teen virgin who finds out she is carrying the Son of God. She is more than just the manger-she provides the womb which incubates our Savior for months. I love how Ann Voskamp describes this in The Greatest Gift:
“Mary kneels before us this first Christmas not as a woman producing, performing, or perfecting but simply bending before a God who has all the power to dispatch angels, enfold Himself in embryonic cells, choreograph the path of stars-a God who quietly beckons every man, every woman to simply come, bend, make a space, receive.”
I’m jumping forward a few days in this devotional, but The Greatest Gift calls this “making a dwelling space for God.” And how did Mary react to the news that she would carry God’s child? She responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”Luke 1: 38. Voskamp writes, “Your greatest gift is not your gifts, but your surrendered yes to be a space for God…Make room. Be a womb.” Say you will be the manger.
“Breath of Heaven” is one of my all-time favorite Christmas song for its simplicity and heartfelt lyrics. And in just trying to grasp what Mary might have been feeling at that very moment. “Holy Father, you have come and chosen me now to carry your Son.” Mind. Blown.
Let me be the manger this Christmas…and always.