JONES: Jesus in a manger - Our true nourishment

December 22, 2020

Each year as I select a place of prominence for our family manger scene, I think of Christmases past. My fondest recollection is one with my first grandchild. He was around the age of four, standing before the crèche, when he announced that we had a problem. When I asked him what the problem was, he informed me that Jesus was missing.

You see, it is our family tradition that the baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas morning. As I tried to explain to my grandson that Jesus wasn’t born yet and that we would place him in the manger on Christmas day, he cocked his head and replied, “Nana, Jesus was born 2000 years ago!”

Well, as they say, out of the mouth of babes. My grandson was correct. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, we know full well and believe that He has come, He is present and He will come again.

Gazing at the manger scene, I try to imagine placing my own newborn baby in a feeding trough, for that is what the manger was… a way to feed the animals, a place to find nourishment. Then I realize the appropriateness of such a cradle since our Lord at His birth was to become our spiritual food. The Eucharist nourishes our souls and feeds the spiritual needs of the Church. In our lives today, from what metaphoric manger do we seek nourishment?

On Christmas day, Christians place Jesus in a manger, exchange gifts and hurry off to Mass to get a good seat. Then what? Most of us gather with our loved ones to celebrate with lots of food, drink and festivity. Some of us crash on the couch in a food coma. Others suffer from pre-Christmas fatigue.

Once the wrapping paper is placed in the trash, relatives have returned to their respective homes and the mess is cleaned up, where is Jesus? Did we make time for Him on this special day? Or did we get caught up in the hustle and bustle preparing for the “activities” of Christmas? Did we exhaust ourselves needlessly hurrying about purchasing gifts, baking family favorites, attending parties, decorating, etc.?

Perhaps we became so distracted in the preparation of this holiday that we forgot the real purpose of the celebration.

I just cannot help but think that we should spend the same amount of time, joy and hope in intense preparation for the Parousia when Christ comes again that we do for our Savior’s birth. So, I humbly ask all — as my grandson declared years ago — ”Do we have a problem?” Is Jesus missing in our lives? Do we know where to find Him? Do we turn to the manger, the feeding vessel, the chalice which holds our true nourishment, the precious Body of Christ?

This Christmas… especially this Christmas in the year of COVID-19, I challenge you to make time to return to the Lord’s “manger” where he awaits and literally becomes food for all, our everlasting sustenance. Return to the manger and gaze upon the miracle that is our Lord made flesh, the same miracle that we celebrate at each Mass through His Word and Precious Body. 

Deborah Jones is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.