After all pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tir’d, bodie and minde,
With full crie of affections, quite astray,
I took up in the next inne I could finde,
There when I came, whom found I but my deare,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to him, readie there
To be all passengers most sweet relief?
O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night’s mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:
Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have
A better lodging than a rack or grave.
~George Herbert “Christmas (1)” (written in 1633)
Man altered by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutish sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
~Robert Southwell from The Nativity of the Christ, Jesuit poet (1561-1595)
We, who are weary from long days of wandering and just trying to get by, seek the refuge of a quiet and calm place to lay our heads. When that is denied, we settle for the resting place of beasts and forage, understanding it will simply have to do and we deserve no better.
It was enough for our Lord to take His first breath on earth in a barn for beasts; it is we who belong there, not Him, our messy smelly lives fitting right in with grime and cobwebs and manure piles.
He seeks a more hospitable place to dwell, so invites Himself, no stranger to messes, right into our unsettled hearts and souls. We are invited to rest from our wanderings, to climb down from the saddle, and dwell alongside so He can nourish and nurture us.
This Baby settled in with us, in our bed of prickly straw and ornery hearts. We rest in His Light which illumines our dark places, until we are ready to take up our journey again, this time walking beside Him.
This year’s Advent theme “Dawn on our Darkness” is taken from this 19th century Christmas hymn:
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness and lend us your aid.
Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
~Reginald Heber -from “Brightest and Best”
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