.. about that structure in front of the entrance, it's a manger."
This is the UU Church the week before Christmas. The co-chair of the newly formed UU Christian Fellowship has come to the podium to explain the presence of something new at our church.. a manger built by the UUCF folks who will also help fill it on Christmas Eve with children portraying the Holy family.
Someone, seeing it for the first time, remarked that perhaps it was a guerilla manger, placed there by the orthodox who wish we would come back to the "true" faith and stop including everyone.
What's so funny? for the non-UUs reading this, we are an eclectic faith as far as our beliefs go, incorporating Humanists, Pagans, Buddhists, culturally Jewish as well as liberal Christian members. We celebrate Christmas as the birth of a great teacher and prophet. We also observe Kwaanza, Easter, Winter Solstice, and Yom Kippur. We have our own holidays,including one called the "Flower Communion." In the past, we have had Christmas Pageants, but never a manger! This is new. This is different. This manger is so..permanent, and it asks us to consider more deeply than we may otherwise have done, the centrality of this Holy Day to Western Civilization. Dan could not have said a more perfect thing. His sweetly sardonic comment defused the situation and helped us laugh at ourselves without mocking anyone.
You see, among us are people who have been hurt deeply by traditional religion. As children, their bodies and/or spirits were beaten into submission with threats of Hell and sin. They may be gay or lesbian, and may for a lifetime have suffered Biblical interpretations which make them less than human. Many of them have left traditional religion behind.
The manger is where is belongs, right outside the door of the UU Church. I like it empty, because its symbolism is so piquant. It asks us, in case we are wondering, or even if we weren't wondering, "What is this place? Who is the child that will be born here? Who belongs in this empty creche?"
To me, the manger is in each one of us. It is our heart, waiting for a guest who will bring hope and light. The child is the Christ within, our own spirit of boundless love that waits to born, and born again, year after year, night after night. The miracle is available at any moment, to any one. Just in case you were wondering.....