At my parish, during the Eucharist, I lead the congregation in some of the more contemporary songs we use in worship. At this time of the year, the nativity sets start making their way out and one of them sits on top of the church's piano. Right above the piano is a crucifix. Thus, for these few minutes at the piano (instead of the organ) I get to see the two poles of Christ's life, birth and death, all at once. There are a number of adjectives which come to mind to describe it; poignant and touching, being among them. It really drives home exactly the reason the Christ-child was born.
But today my thoughts were slightly different. We were singing the song "Give Thanks", the chorus of which is as follows:
"Now let the weak say 'I am strong'
Let the poor say "I am rich',
because of what the Lord has done for us."
Looking at a Nativity you can see these words lived out. The poor Joseph and Mary wrapping their little one in a blanket, laying him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. Yes, I know the reason they were out in a stable was not because they did not have any money-the place was full. But nothing looks more homely than to see a king, sleeping in the place where the cows and pigs would eat. And yet, it was at this moment, that Mary and Joseph must have understood the words quoted above. I am strong and I am rich because this little one has been made poor for me. By uniting my life to his in faith, I too make the journey from spiritual poverty to the treasures of heaven. The humble poor, with Mary and Joseph, can truly sing these words.
For even the poorest Americans, this is a hard lesson to learn. We are simply a wealthy people. Often our wealth gets in the way of understanding simple lessons. There's a reason the rich young ruler was told to sell all of his belongings. Wealth can cause us lean too much on ourselves for provision and not on God. But in that nativity you can see the real faith of a mother and father. You can see, that though materially poor, the Virgin and her husband possessed and held in their arms the greatest riches imaginable.
Lord, this Christmas season, help us to give enough away that we can understand, if even in a small way, poverty. And in that poverty, may we look to you to make us rich, through the power of the cross you were born to bear and die upon. Amen.