nough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
from 'In the bleak mid winter' by Rossetti
It's a common enough site in the West this time of year - the impulse to wrap up from all the 'global warming' (!). We even view the compulsion to 'wrap' houses in dazzling banks of coloured lights.
It's understandable enough - the cold and the dark prompt us to look for warmth, the brilliance of something slightly encountered in a mild, long summers day, in enjoying the company of others, in our breath escaping before some wonder or work of art. The problem is that it's all too easy for us to 'dress up' such a genuine desire in all the wrong clothes - to 'gift wrap' our spirituality and our understanding (or ignorance) of God in a garb as worthwhile as all the paper that's dumped from presents on Christmas day.
When we spend but a single moment considering the real nativity of Christ, we are exposed to a scene where God strips away all our notions of some seasonal spirit inviting children to wish for the latest 'must have' item.
Here, instead, we find a child, naked and hungry, nursing upon his mother's breast...
veiled only in the rudest of realms, amidst the fallen world of Adam's issue,
behold, the naked God!
"Nobody notices or understands what God performs in this stable.
Here he proves that man knows nothing at all about who God is, where He is or what He does...
Here, Christ puts to shame all our wisdom and learning, and makes us look to where we would not normally see" (Martin Luther).
The so-called 'Christmas' story has become so familiar that we treat it like the latest Hollywood adventure, to season the season, and so we miss its astonishing, stark reality.
Perhaps, this season, we can for a moment, de-nude ourselves of the usual trappings and face the truth that the narratives of the New Testament are seeking to unwrap.
Here's a little package that can illuminate us so: