By Sharon Wilson

manger december 20

“The Empty Manger” by Sharon Wilson. All rights reserved.

In these last few days before Christmas, life can get hectic. I have wrapping to do, Christmas cards to send, cookies to bake, and my house to clean. It is very easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas and remember what we really need to do to prepare for the coming of Christ.

The empty manger was set out earlier this week at our parish. This was done for convenience, as the turn around time from the bare and purple Advent feel to the bright, joyful, filled with evergreens and gold Christmas church  is very short for those who set up the church decorating. I was in charge of this transformation at our church for six years, and I know that it can add it’s own layer of hectic to the preparation for Christmas.

But it was the emptiness of the manger that struck me.

Along with scripture, I sometimes find that it is a piece of art or architecture that moves me to prayer and meditation. This empty manger caused me to reflect on how well I am prepared to be filled by Christ’s love. It is clean, swept out, and ready for the next occupant. Growing up on a farm, I know that a stable has lots of muck to be hauled out. I am thankful that I made it to confession lately and cleaned out some of my own muck.

I also wonder, “Who would I be on the way to this manger scene?” What is the shepherd doing today? He has no idea that he will be led to this manger by angels. The wise men are traveling to see a great king. Their expectations will be met, but not in the way they expect. A lot of my life turns out that way. Will I be able to see the true path to the manger and Christ Child, or will I get distracted by the idea of a different kind of king on a throne? What would Mary and Joseph be thinking the days before the birth of our Savior?

“Waiting in joyful hope.”

Every week we hear those words as part of the liturgy. This season of Advent is a reflection on that joyful waiting.

I will take time in the days and hours before Christmas to do just that. I hope to spend this time of preparation for Christmas to also prepare the empty manger in my heart for the coming of the Christ Child.

(This article was originally published in “Food for Thought” for The Catholic Spirit.)