The Christmas season is a deliciously earthy celebration. Of course, from the very first it was all about babies being born – Jesus and his cousin John who would be called “The Baptist”. Babies, if they are anything, they are “earthy”. Ask any mother. The whole thing is hardly “heavenly”. It is messy, painful, frightful but, in the end, a marvelous little baby boy.
The Biblical story of Christmas stays squarely on terra firma. There are shepherds, mangers, stables, cattle-lowing, turtledoves, gold, frankincense, myrrh, and swaddling clothes. Each thing, in its own special way -earthy. As the child grew, the story remains very grounded in the warp and woof of earth’s fabric. The child would grow into a fine man and become a carpenter in Galilee often associating with common fishermen. He would later become an itinerant rabbi, but his words were thoroughly grounded in earthy things like the sowing of seed, pruning of vineyards, and weeding of crops. He would one day even be mistaken for a common gardener. All very “earthy”.
I was in a grocery store the other day. The place was filled with folks preparing for feasting and Christmas celebrations. All kinds of foods from across the earth had marvelously been assembled. The shoppers there were clearly cosmopolitan. Dozens of cultures were represented. Breads, spices, sweets, vegetables and meats like lamb, turkey, duck, Guinea fowl, even fish from the waters of this great wide planet- foods that were each brought to satisfy a particular palate and culture. Across the earth we celebrate the birth of this baby; each culture in its own unique way- in Mexico with tamales, in England with mincemeat and Christmas pudding. Earth’s teaming masses gather up the world’s earthly abundance for a birthday party!
But this is where we look up from our “earthy”gardens, fishing-nets, orchards and vineyards and think we want more, something heavenly. We “need” something heavenly. There is yet something missing we feel in our hearts. “Man does not live by bread alone,” echoes in our sub-conscience.
Ah, yes! This little baby born within the sound of lowing cattle was “earthy” alright, but He was so much more. “God Incarnate,” Christians believe. A Heavenly King for the earthly masses. Heavenly Bread born in Bethlehem.