Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

Serene Christmas images suspend reality. We draw near the manger and are lulled into
the belief that all is calm, all is bright. Infancy quickly advances into adulthood and the still of the night shifts from a stable to a garden — from Bethlehem to Gethsemane.
The deterioration of peaceful bliss is foreshadowed by baby Jesus in the manger, yet we
seldom see the clue right before our eyes. Our Christmas carol misleads us with the suggestion that the manger has a cushion of hay, like a pillow, for the Christ child’s precious head. Our Passion story corrects the image — Jesus is the hay. Just as the feed for animals is placed in the trough; the bread of life is in the manger.
Christ is our sustenance. We shall never hunger. Joy to the world, indeed!

Laurie A. McNeill is the Teaching Elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Highland and the First Presbyterian Church of Marlboro

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