December 17 | Advent Devotional

Behind the Dumpster (Lost in Translation)
From Ara Guekguezian
First Congregational Church
Luke 2:1–7

“…and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

In a manger? What is a manger? Misspelling? Why didn’t autocorrect catch the error? In our urban world, even in places like Fresno, a manger is unknown. Wait a minute, I know what a manger and a stable are. I have seen them in and outside of churches throughout the Valley. And yet, you do not know the smell, the filth, the meaning of being born in a stable and placed in a manger. But I’ve been to the petting zoo. For an overwhelming majority of us, we do not understand. And we must understand if we are to tell the story in all it’s power (not glory, stables are not glorious). For glory, reference the choir of angels and the shepherds (again, foreign images to most of us).

If we were to tell the story today, where would the Christ child be born to make the same point? My vision: Mary and Joseph arrive in Fresno on the night of a huge football game. Every hotel room in town is booked. Tens of thousands have descended upon Bulldog Stadium from elsewhere. Bad hotdogs at the game have caused great distress among hundreds, so the hospitals are full also. Mary goes into labor. They are by a nice hotel. Joseph enters the lobby and is informed there is no room available anywhere in a fifty-mile radius. But there is a safe, quiet, sheltered space where the dumpsters are kept. So Joseph goes outside, rolls one dumpster out a few feet and Mary settles in for the delivery. The newborn babe is placed in a clean box from the Recycling dumpster, cushioned with bubble wrap. Ahhh yes! Now we have the requisite isolation, degradation, and smell that evokes stable-manger situation. God comes to us in the flesh in the humblest circumstance. That we may approach without any impediment except our own pride.

Prayer: God of all, all people and all knowledge, grant us the requisite imagination and intelligence to tell the old, old story in the language of the hearer. That they may know and believe and receive the newborn king. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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