In the Stable
The newborn Messiah came with a host of names, including Immanuel, “God with us.” And almost His final words were “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is difficult, living in the midst of a comfortably secular society, to be properly astounded by the import of these words. The secular attitudes of our culture can have more influence on our lives than the orthodox beliefs we think we hold. We sometimes find it hard to pin down exactly what difference it would make in our daily lives if He were not “with us” at all.
There is a phrase from an 11th century Christmas play that helps remind me of the profound seriousness of the fact that Christ is with us. On the way back to his flock after visiting the holy family, one of the shepherds exclaims, “Stabulo ponitur qui continet mundum“: “He is placed in a stable who contains the world.” The language is poetry but the content is literal fact. In his divine nature, the baby in that manger did contain and uphold the world–and still does.
The shepherd’s lines can be paraphrased without losing their terrifying truth. It is He who contains the world who is in the midst of his Church, indeed, in my own heart by the agency of his Holy Spirit. This blows away the cobwebs of habitual secularity and leaves us naked before a flaming sword. “Lo, I am with you always.” There is comfort indeed in these words, but it is a comfort that must, in more ways than one, begin with “Fear not!”
For poetry about the season and everything under the sun, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order STARS THROUGH THE CLOUDS: THE COLLECTED POETRY OF DONALD T. WILLIAMS (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2011).