During the Sundays of Advent we’ve published excerpts from All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss. Below is the book’s reflection for Christmas Day.
Christmas Day: Jesus, The Christ
There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. …
[In his day]
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:1-2, 9
We are dreaming of a time when the land might give thanks for the people.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist, writer, enrolled member of the Citizen Nation of Potawatomi
On our way to the woods my dog veered left, off the path. I’ve learned that following her, on days I’m awake, leads to revelation. She brought me to a small manger made of new wood freshly sawed and nailed together. Made in the traditional Nativity-scene shape, the manger had been placed at the edge of the woods. It was empty.
I suspected the four children living in the house nearby. Outdoors often, aided by their parents, they play games in the woods involving light sabers, capes, and crowns. They are still seers.
The manger appeared a week into Advent. Brittle brown leaves from the oak above blew into and out of it. Then one day the manger was not empty. It was filled to the brim with hay. Two days later the hay had been dumped onto the ground and the manger moved a few feet away. It was now half full of shelled corn. A single fox squirrel sat up in the manger, leisurely eating kernel after kernel.
I found the children pulling each other through the snow on sleds. “Tell me about the manger,” I said.
The oldest, a boy, said, “It’s for the deer. We like to watch them. Next we’re going to put a hunk of salt…”
The smallest, a girl, who had her head tipped back, mouth open to taste the falling flakes, interrupted. “It’s for all the animals.”
In the fullness of time, the Christmas story says, a girl gave birth ringed by animals. She lay the baby in one of their feeding troughs where animal bodies would warm the air around his fresh-born human body. Mother and child fell asleep and woke to their chuffs and shuffling hooves, their calls and the shuddering of their hide.
Later sheep herders smelling of dirt, damp wool, and milk crowded into the stable. Out in the wild night fields these animal men sitting in the dark were the first to get the word. A baby had been born, they were told, who would show people a way out of their small pinched lives, a way to abandon themselves to the ever-present, unstoppable current of Love that carries all things to radiant wholeness. To recognize him they should look for a child at home among animals.
At the edge of the woods where children put out corn and salt and watch for them, and name them and speak to them, the animals wait. Will they one day find the manger empty, the children indoors? So much rushes children to drop their capes and crowns in the leafmeal, so much clamors and flashes for their attention. As they grow, will they lose the sight that sees light and spirit in other creatures? Or will they, despite the rush and clamor, find irresistible the beauty quietly radiating from everything that is? To the animals it makes all the difference. Their hope, and the hope of all that breathes, is that human ones abandon themselves to the One Great Love. For that, all creation waits.
Illustration by David G. Klein in All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings.