Beyond the Manger–Mark 1:38

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

As I type these words, my saintly wife is hard at work, slaving over a hot sewing machine, struggling to craft Aquabats costumes for two of our grandsons.

In the event that you’re hopelessly out of touch with all the latest wonders of popular culture, the Aquabats are featured in a marvelously silly send-up of cheesy super-hero programs. They’re not particularly cool, heroic, or even very fit. Despite these apparent drawbacks, Ira and Uri want nothing more than to dress up like these guys.

At the same time that Penny is sewing the trademark Aquabat utility belt, other people are piling into Best Buy and Target, attempting to pile all the right gifts into their carts. Meanwhile, people plan for parties and dinners. They map out their route to Grandma’s house and make sure the car is full of gas. They play an apparently endless stream of Christmas songs and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas for the forty-seventh year in a row.

All of these activities keep us busy at Christmas. In fact, we might even get the sense that these things are the point of Christmas. Of course, if you darken the door of church during the month of December, you’ll be reminded that Jesus is the reason for the season. But even that can get us off base.

Jesus, it turns out, did not come into this world to be the cute little baby lying in a  bed of hay. He didn’t arrive to instigate retail sales or to put the black in Black Friday. Jesus’ purpose was not to disrupt the working habits of shepherds or cause Magi to travel hundreds of miles.

Instead, Jesus came into this world on a day that we celebrate on December 25, not so that he could do things on December 25. He came to move out beyond Capernaum, to preach to a lost and dying world. “Beyond the Mangers stands the cross,” a Christmas song explains. How true is that?

On this Christmas, as we eat whatever marvels mean family and home to us, as we open gifts and watch children pull on Aquabats outfits, as we travel to family gatherings that may or may not portend peace and good will, let us remember the Jesus who rose from prayer to head out for ministry.

Rather than lying passive in a manger, Jesus headed to the wider world. Interestingly, he gave us the same instruction at the end of his time on earth.