“A woman is with child, and will bear a son,
and will call him Emmanuel.”
This is where we begin our Advent pilgrimage. A crib. The nativity scene is all there, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and their sheep—except for the Child. The manger is empty.
Let it stay that way, unfilled, for now.
The empty manger represents the unfulfilled hopes and prayers of all the ages, all the deepest yearnings of the human family. Spend a minute—sixty quiet seconds—looking into that bare crib. What do you want to put into that cradle? At first you may think—I don’t know. And—what kind of crazy exercise is this? But if you gaze a little longer, give your heart a chance to be heard over the din of your mind, you may hear words like:
Peace . . . in this ravaged world
Healing . . . in body or mind
Protection . . . for someone vulnerable
Hope . . . for an end to oppression and violence
Love . . . for some unlovable soul
Put that into the empty manger, and trust that the Christ Child will bring those longings to fulfillment. It may seem silly or pointless to put our huge, hopeful dreams into a cow’s feed trough. But remember the impossibly beautiful words of St. John of the Cross.
“Where there is no love, put love—and you will find love.”
Prayer: Thank you, Christ Child, for giving us your vacant cradle; help us to place our dreams and desires there in the emptiness, so that, at your coming, we may find that all our hopes are realized in you. Amen.