With Christmas now upon us, we've been talking about all of the things that might keep us from the manger this year (or any year, really). It's not something we frequently talk about, but the truth is that for all kinds of reasons that our broken flesh can hardly bear, Christmas can just be a difficult season.
And that's okay.
We don't have to whitewash this. We don't have to paint over it with hope and grace and guilt everyone into having a merry Christmas this year. We don't have to pretend that because Jesus is the reason for the season, this season is just lovely and perfect and wonderful for all of us. We don't have to drag our weary, worn-out souls out of the inn and go down tonight to see what's going on in the manger or forever live with the knowledge that Jesus was right here...and we missed Him.
That is, I think, the greatest fear that we all have, that if we don't find a way to stop and to settle in and to drag our world-weary souls out of the inn, that we're going to miss what's happening in the manger. That Christmas is just going to sneak by us and when we blink, it will be over, and we'll have missed it.
We think that we're going to miss hope. That we're going to miss grace. That we're going to miss love. That we have just one breath to try to grab hold of all of it but our hands are just so tired and our grip so weak. And then, like that, it's gone.
And if we can't even figure out how to have hope at Christmas, what realistic chance is there for us with the rest of the year?
Because, you know, what we all need this Christmas is a little more guilt in our lives. (Please note the sarcasm here.)
Here's what I want to tell you: it's okay. It really is okay. It's okay if you're tired, if there's too much noise, if your heart is hurting. It's okay if you are feeling lonely or rejected and just can't bring yourself to the manger. It's okay if you're stuck in the inn for whatever reason and not even the cry of a newborn babe - not even the promise of all the hope in the world - can lift this heavy weight for you right now.
Because whenever you're ready, there will still be a baby in that manger, ready to receive you with cries of hope and giggles of joy and that beautiful little twinkle in His eye that assures you that everything is going to be okay.
No, Jesus doesn't stay in the manger forever; we know He walked the streets of Jerusalem all the way to Calvary. But the beauty of Christmas is God with us and God...has never stopped being with us.
And that means that whenever you're ready to find Him, He'll be there. Whenever you're ready to throw on your housecoat and slippers and make your way down from the inn, there will still be something going on in the manger. Christ is come; He's here. He's not going anywhere. He is with us.
Don't let yourself get wrapped up in the guilt of "missing" Christmas. It's okay. Really.
Because Immanuel. God is with us. And because of the miracle of the manger, He always will be.
Whenever you're ready.
There is a Way in the manger.