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By Tim Zingale
A window opened in the yellow straw, as a black nose, two pinkish ears and a gray paw poked out to see the strange sight in that stable. The gray little mouse saw the brown hues of the ox, donkey and the camel in the silver glow of that star. In the glow of the lantern and fire, he saw the lambs with their white coats shinning, baying softly as their attention was riveted on the manger which used to hold their food. The little mouse began to wonder out loud about this strange occurrence in the stable by the inn.
He wondered,”Why are the mother and father here in this stable this night? Why is there a baby sleeping quietly in the manger? Why are the inn keeper and his wife smiling so softly?”
The mouse could not answer his own questions, but the wise owl who had been sitting high in the rafters, flew down to the mouse and began to speak.
“You see, my little mouse friend, (quite a statement coming from an owl, but this was indeed a strange night) those people are Mary and Joseph. They came to Bethlehem for the census, but because they had to travel slowly, they arrived late. The inn was full. But the inn keeper, knowing they needed a quiet place because the baby was coming soon, thought this stable would be an ideal place. The baby was born a little while ago, they named him Jesus. The innkeeper and his wife are checking to see that everything is okay.”
The little mouse began to speak, but just then a band of shepherds dressed in drab brown clothing came in the stable, breathless and full of excitement. The little gray mouse ran into the pile of straw for safety as the owl flew again to the rafters to watch. In the darkness of the straw, the mouse could not see or hear much. He couldn’t wait to peek out again, but for now he thought it best to remain hidden in the straw.
Time passed. The mouse peeked out again. It was all quiet. The shepherds were gone. Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were sleeping quietly. The little mouse looked up to the rafters. The wise owl saw him and flew down.
The mouse asked eagerly, “What happened? Why did the shepherds come?”
The wise owl answered, “What I am going to tell you, I found difficult believe. But after the shepherds told Mary and Joseph so many times, I began to believe it, too.”
“Believe what?” asked the mouse.
“Oh,” said the owl, “I guess I’d better begin at the beginning. The shepherds said they were attending their sheep on the hillside outside of Bethlehem. Everything was quiet, when an angel appeared in the sky.”
“The angel said, ‘Be not afraid, I bring you good news of great joy, for to you is born this day…. a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.'” Then the angel was joined by a whole host of angels singing “glory to God in the highest.” The angel informed them where to find the baby. So they hurried to see if it was true. And sure enough it was true.”
The little mouse asked, “Isn’t this strange?”
The owl answered, “I heard Mary and Joseph talking after everyone left. It seems they knew this baby was special because an angel appeared to them many months ago and told them what name they should give to this baby. Imagine that.”
The little mouse could not understand all of this. He wasn’t as wise as the owl. But he understood that something very special, something very wonderful had happened this night. He watched as the baby Jesus stirred in the manger and Mary comforted him by humming softly and cradling him in her arms. It was such a wonderful sight.
The donkey, the ox, and the camel were all breathing softly as if they were humming along. The owl flew to the top of the rafters again as the silver light from that strange bright star shone, it seemed more brightly, bringing a warm glow to all in that stable. The little mouse fell asleep feeling warm and happy, wondering what it all meant.
The little mouse experienced the Christmas event, but he could not understand it. He fell asleep wondering what it all meant.
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I wonder how many of us really understand Christmas? I wonder if we are as perplexed as that little mouse at the events which we relive this evening and tomorrow? I wonder if there is a certain mystery about Christ that is just difficult to understand.
So this evening, to help us understand this event better, I would like to look at the Christmas event through the vivid colors which were present at the manger as described by our little mouse friend.
First, let’s consider the color white. The angels were described as being white. So were the coats on the lambs. The baby was wrapped in white clothes. The angels announcing His coming appeared as a white light in heaven. And in our tradition, it is usually white outside as snow covers the land. The color white, through our history has stood for cleansing and redemption. White has been the color of purity and newness.
As we try to understand the Christmas event, the color white reminds us of the redemption, the reconciliation, the cleansing, the newness that God brought to earth through the baby born in the manger. The Christmas event, the Christ event, was the beginning of the process which brought the creation and the creator back together. The Christmas event, the Christ event, is centered on the baby born this night whose task it was to bring a reconciliation to the creator and the world. The Christmas event, the Christ event, is much more than the sweet sentiment of a baby who is born in a drafty stable. It is a time to celebrate reconciliation; it is a time to be joyous because an union has been established again, a bridge has been built between God the Father and his wayward children.
This reconciliation can be seen in the following story:
“A young girl ran away from home to get married. Her father was angry and said he would never forgive her or ever want to see her again. She was sorry and wrote long letters seeking forgiveness, but still the father remained unforgiving. She eventually had a son. One day, when the boy was old enough to run and play, an idea came to her. Why not send her son to her father. He would be a living letter telling her father of her love for him and that she still very much wanted his forgiveness.
They drove to grandfather’s house. The boy had not been there before, but the house was as his mother remembered it. She told the boy to knock on the door. When Grandpa answered, he was to give him a big hug and a kiss. The boy went to the door, knocked, grandfather answered, the boy reached up, kissed him and give him a huge hug. His heart melted and the father motioned for the girl to come in as she was standing just a few feet from the door.
Reconciliation happened that day just as reconciliation happens this night between God and his children. Jesus is God’s sign of his love for us and his power to forgive us our wrongs.
But Christmas is more than the color white. It is also the color brown, the color of the shepherd’s clothes, the drab color of the donkey, the ox and the camels. Brown is the color of the manger holding the baby Jesus. The brown in the shepherds clothes is the brown of work and sweat. The brown of the burden of work, the drabness of life, and the brokenness of toil is the clear reminder that the baby came to be with us, to walk along side of us in all the brokenness of life, in all that reminds us that we indeed live in a fallen world.
The color brown reminds us that the Christmas event, the Christ event, has not come to completion yet. We still live in the in-between time, where we have experienced the joyousness of heaven, but not its fullness. We live in the time when we need the comfort and the hope, the assurance of salvation as we live in the brokenness of the world.
Another color of this season which was present at the stable, was the color red. The red of the fire which kept the tiny baby warm. The pink, rosy red skin of that newborn laying quietly in the manger. The red in today’s candy canes. The red of excitement, the happiness which comes because of the salvation which is ours because of this Christmas event, because of this Christ event. There is a a joy and excitement to this night because of the togetherness which is ours because of the baby born in the manger. Red is a traditional color for Christmas, the red of holly, the red of Poinsettias, the red of that jolly man’s suit, the red of the fire warming the home on a cold winter’s night, and we could go on and on.
Red is the color which ties all the joy, the excitement, the hope, the reconciliation, the promise, and the salvation which began this night, ties it all in one huge package of peace.
— Copyright 2006, Tim Zingale, Used by Permission