Jesus began his life in a manger, the place where people put food to fuel their animals before starting out on journeys. The friendly beasts surrounded Jesus as he lay, in swaddling clothes, upon the “gas pump” of his day. What does this mean when we think about his life?
When we think about Jesus’ life, we tend to bracket it with prophecies and genealogies at the beginning and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, as promised, afterward. But if we just look at the relatively simple material facts of his life, we see a child who was not only an exile “born to run” but born to fuel our own journeys.
In the West, we keep animals as pets or for show, but the animalsin that stable were mostly the beasts of burden who belonged to people staying at the inn. That is to say, Jesus was sleeping among the “cars” and “trucks” and “SUVs” of the nomads who had returned to Bethlehem for the census.
The manger where Jesus lay was a place where normally those animals would get their food. That’s one good reason why, in the words of the familiar children’s carol, “the friendly beasts around him stood.” Jesus was lying on their dinner plate.
So Jesus begins his life in the fueling station for the transport of his day. And let’s bracket his life, for a change, not with the cross but with his final directions to us:
“As you go, make disciples …” (Matthew 28:19)
Jesus begins his life on this earth in the place where those who journey got their fuel. His last command to those of us who follow him is to keep moving.
As you look beyond the Christmas Day into your entire Christmas year, how will you allow Jesus to fuel you for your journey of service?