December 24, 2007

From Trough to Table

It never quite occurred to me, sweet Jesus,
that by manger the good book means to say
a gutter for feeding the livestock. (I guess I've
always thought the hay was just to help you

sleep.) But there you lay, O Lord, napping in
a trough built to nourish the bleating sheep
and the cantankerous cattle. It seems an
inadequate throne for the Prince of Peace;

not to mention the pleasant aroma. Manger
has such a nicer ring; a thing exceptional,
golden, fallen out of heaven just for your
sacred sake. (Yes, I like my memory much

better than your reality.) Maybe I have not
noticed this conspicuous trough because I
have not wanted to notice it. Do we want
to see your first bed so pristine because we

long to see our lives so spotless? Just look at
us! Topped-off tummies and starving souls.
I think the lowly estate of your birth eats at
my innocence the way a good solvent works

on rusty parts. Your actual humility frees me
from my false pride; when I am free from my
own life, I notice such details about yours: A
modest birthday trough turns out to be the

first of many feeding places that seem to mark
the timeline of your life like courses in a gala
meal. Manger gives way to multitudes, loaves
and fish abound; wine for Cana, bread for the

hungry—both in body and soul; at table with
saints and sinners, priests and prostitutes. You
nourished so many in such need so well with so
little that some in their sanctimony even called

you a chowhound—frivolous, they said, with
the holiness of God's banquet. (They must have
been starving, too.) And at the end of it all, on
another big Eve (just not Christmas) again you

broke bread amidst our hunger. This is I; my
body, your bread—my life in yours. Take and
eat, you said: I am the manger sent to feed the
world. Food for the journey to the Father's final

meal. So here we are, tabled Jesus, once again:
your starving saints, your satiated sinners. On
this sacred night, move us again from trough
to table, from that holy hay to this holy meal,

from our lowly dying to your glorious living.