We shared in our first Advent Sunday of the year. We celebrated with our men who live in this rehabilitation center, some working for change, others wishing for it like something on their Christmas list.
Three men stood to read prepared words for our first week. The second reader would light the candle before the third reader finished with his part. We do this every year, different men but the same process. Read, light a candle, sing a Christmas carol and pray. Time set aside for specific readings and candle lighting during the 4 weeks of Advent.
I usually place a lighter to be used for the candles on the table; one of those long gizmo’s that looks better than a cigarette lighter most have in their pockets.
And every year, said cigarette lighter will be pulled from their pocket and used instead of what is there. I shake my head and try to instruct them for the next week.
Until this year.
I thought about the conditions where Jesus was born: the animal sounds and stench, the stone trough with rough, itchy hay. I thought about shepherds being the first to receive the news. Men who held low positions. Men who smelled like their sheep. Men who rarely worshipped in the Temple because they couldn’t leave their jobs to perform the ceremonial washing to enter the temple.
There wasn’t much proper about Jesus’ birth. His mother wasn’t married when the Angel told her fiancé she was going to have a child. At the time of his impending birth, they had to go to another town where they found NO VACANCY signs throughout Bethlehem. The only place for them was some kind of stable, a bed of hay among the animals. No family around to help her. No proper bed for the newborn.
I’m worried about the lighter. That it will look right. That it will be proper and fit with the white and purple candles and the tree that’s been decorated in silver and gold. There are men in this room who are struggling just to stay sober and I’m worried about this cigarette lighter and how it will look.
I let it go today. Let go of the worrying of how it looked, of the thought I might teach them something with a long handled lighter that doesn’t fit in a pocket. When Dan lit the first candle he pulled a lighter from his pocket and I thought, ‘perfect’. It fit with the baby King born where animals were kept, whose birth was first announced to a lowly lot of shepherds.
The circumstances of His birth weren’t an accident. God chose the overcrowded, yet lonely place, the discomfort, the commonness of it all for the birth of His only Son. God chose the least of these. And every day he continues to choose us, the least, the last, the lost.
What kind of King would come so small
From glory to a humble stall?
That dirty manger is my heart too
I’ll make it a royal throne for You
Jesus, Jesus, precious one
How we thank You that You’ve come
Jesus, Jesus, precious one
A manger throne for God’s own son
Manger Throne, Third Day