All poor ones and humble and all those who stumble,
come hastening and feel not afraid,
for Jesus our treasure, with love past all measure,
in lowly poor manger was laid.
Though wise men who found him laid rich gifts around him
yet oxen they gave him their hay,
and Jesus in beauty accepted their duty, contented in manger he lay.
Then haste we to show him the praises we owe him,
our service he ne’er can despise,
whose love still is able to show us that stable,
where softly in manger he lies.
We’ve almost made it to another Christmas. It is a beautiful time of year for many of us – filled with special events and traditions. We are busy with decorating, gift buying, long lines at the post office and a lot of baking. We anticipate seeing people we haven’t seen in a while, experiencing concerts, services and parties that only happen at this time of year. It is the most wonderful time of the year, as the old standard Christmas song tells us.
Unless it’s not.
For many, this is one of the most difficult seasons to endure. For all sorts of reasons. Maybe it is a reminder of those lost. Maybe it is a reminder of the end of another year of disappointments and failures. Maybe it is a reminder of what we don’t have, and what we can’t possibly acquire. Maybe it is a reminder of being unable to give what we had hoped to give. There is loneliness, sadness, depression, pain. To feel despair when the world bombards you with messages of sparkly joy and celebration, is like a slap in the face. A constant reminder that what you feel is somehow wrong.
These words tell a different story. They are about the possibility of those who stumble being offered a place of safety. These words speak of the humblest of gifts being beautiful and worthy of acceptance. These are words of love.
There is something very tender about how this love is expressed in this text. The gentle image of a baby lying softly and contentedly in the manger is actually quite powerful. Imagine that for a moment. What if in the middle of the hustle and bustle, we allow ourselves space to feel softness and to be content? Giving ourselves space to rest amidst the struggles and chaos of our lives.
This hymn doesn’t tell us that there are no stumbles or that everyone will magically find riches. It tells us that who we are and what we have to offer is beautiful. It tells us that love will accept us wherever we are and we will not be despised. Reading these words, we are reminded that we are good enough. I sometimes wonder if that knowledge can also give us the courage to offer this acceptance to those around us – living the example of soft and contented love displayed by the tiny babe in the manger. Welcoming all that we receive with humility and grace, and offering our own beauty with kindness and generosity.