It’s not surprising that I’ve been humming Away in a Mangerthese days (after all, it is the Christmas season) but I’ve found myself thinking more about the wood. Neither humorous nor particularly profound, here are my musings.
Contrary to the pictures we’re used to, the crèche wasn’t in some well-lit, semi-sterile environment filled with scrubbed and subdued cattle. It probably was near the back of a dark, smelly cave, complete with animals and all that goes with it. One tradition I’ll hold on to, however, is that the manger was wooden.
Wood was important to Jesus. First of all, he grew up in a carpenter’s shop and there was lots of wood there. Joseph must have taught Jesus well because throughout his short but powerful years of ministry, a lot of Jesus’ teaching involved trees. He understood the beauty and durability of wood and he respected its value. Good lives were called good trees, vile and corrupt individuals compared to diseased and wasted trees.
There was more wood involved in his ministry, too. Jesus spent a fair amount of time in a wooden boat and I have no doubt that he looked each one over thoroughly before climbing aboard. This trained carpenter trusted the properties of properly-put-together wood.
He ended his life as he began it, stretched upon wooden boards. The first time, Mary picked him up and nursed him; the last, she watched and grieved from a distance. The first time the wood surrounded and cradled him but this time nails held him captive to it. The quality and worth of wood weren’t different, it was how it was used.
As I said, nothing profound but I pray this season will find each of you strong and healthy, flourishing with the fruitfulness that comes from being rooted in God’s faithfulness.