What meaning can the manger story have for us as Unitarian Universalists. As I studied and tried to understand this story, I was struck by both the depth of and the inconsistencies of the story. First and foremost, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of a man known as Jesus of Nazarene. Interestingly, The gospels of Mark and John have no story about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew has Jesus being born in house. But I have always found the story of the Manger that Ken read from the Gospel of Luke meaningful. There was no room for them at the Inn. First let us look at the inn. At the time of Jesus, an inn was not just a place where travelers slept. It was the meeting house for the entire community.
So to look at this story from a metaphorical perspective, these were people who were being excluded from the community. Now to be clear, it didn’t say there was no room at the inn, it says there was no room for them at the inn. How many people in the course of life have heard this but in other words Sorry you cant live in this neighborhood because of the color of your skin. There is no room for you at the inn. You will get paid less for this job than a man, There is no room for you at the inn. You cannot get a loan from the bank, because you come from a different part of town. There is no room for you at the inn. You cannot get married, because your sexual orientation is different than others. There is no room for you at the inn.
But there is plenty of room at the inn…And it should be open to all people. The times they are a changing, and we are seeing some changes but we cannot rest in our vigilance to see justice enacted for everyone. And the message of this family not allowed to stay in the inn to give birth is the story of all who have been oppressed. It is the story of how we survive, how we find truth, how we overcome, how being oppressed changes our worldview, and most of all, how to change the world so that no one is excluded from the inn.
Also meaningful to me was the symbolism of being placed in a manger. I picture them there among the animals and bales of hay. I look at this as human beings in harmony with nature, of being one with the universe. I find this message an environmental vision that we need to live in accordance with nature, not abuse it, not dominate it, but live in it, a place where our babies are safe, where our lives are safe, where we can live and grow comfortably and healthy.
The story of Jesus birth is the story of creation retold. I think about the story of the virgin birth and how we find it incredible. Then I think about today and how we use invitro fertilization to create life. And with cloning, soon it seems we will not need humans at all to create life. I think that is incredible as well. The story is the story of new creation, of life, of beginnings, and how those beginnings may seem innocuous, scary, unsure. But ultimately this is the story of finding hope in a time of despair.
At the time of this story, The Jewish people were under the yoke of oppression of the Roman empire. This young baby grew up to give hope to people, to show them a new way to create and live within society, to help them create a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. In times like this, the Christmas story is a good reminder that amidst the financial struggles and world conflicts, there is another way to live, there is hope for a better world, there is a different paradigm for which we can resolve our disputes. I notice this time of year, every person seems a little happier, a little nicer, a little more willing to go out of their way to help one another. It is a reminder of how we can be all the time with each other, a reminder of how we can envision and live in this world in peace, with love and justice for all. May it be so. Amen.