Hope Together (or why the nativity of soft straw and swaddling cloths is really meant for us)

Sometimes I come across a post on Facebook for all of us when we are feeling rough and down in the dumps. It says when you’re feeling like you’re at the end of your rope and you can’t hold on any longer, tie a knot.

I like the “don’t give up” attitude of the post that encourages us to keep trying even when it seems like you can’t anymore but there is something about it as well that whenever I read it, whether I’m doing well at that moment or not so great, it just gives to me a sense of hopelessness.

It just feels all too often like the other lines that we share with ourselves and others when we’re at the end of our rope: just hold on a little longer, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, chin up kid, the sun comes out tomorrow (and no I will not break out into song…). Again, I dig the “don’t give up” attitude, God knows we need it, but at the same time it just gives me that sense of hopelessness.

I think a lot of that comes from the reality that sometimes we don’t have anything left to give; our bootstraps are busted and tying a knot at the end of the rope is the final straw that broke the optimistic back. That’s life, lots of ups and downs and a great deal of in-betweens, but my goodness we’re just not that strong or tough, somedays at the end of the rope there is nothing left to give.

But what else do we say and what else can we do?

There is another Facebook post that I really like and it speaks to me and everyone that has felt this way, you may have seen it on my page. Two cartoon figures are talking one is kneeling over the other who is tucking his body into the fetal position. Here is the conversation: “What’s wrong? I don’t know. How can I help? I don’t know. Ok, I made you a nest, do you want to come in? Ok.” Think a picture of soft pillows and fuzzy blankets the sad person is hiding under. “Does that help? …Yes. Are you ever coming out? …No. Ok, hang on.” The second person crawls under the soft pillows and fuzzy blankets and is holding on to his friend.

Why I like this so much is the reality it shows that there are honest to goodness times when you don’t got enough to tie a knot and we need someone to make a nest with soft pillows and fuzzy blankets and hold us safe. Everyone needs this from time to time when days are rough no matter who you are and on a deeper level beyond our lousy days everyone needs that place that holds you safe both now and eternally.

We struggle against this idea, we like to say chin up to ourselves and tie a knot to others but ultimately we can’t hold on to any of that rope. What is it that we’re holding on to anyways, my own strength or my own career, my idea of how life should be or maybe it is my pride I’m holding on too or my health. But all of that rope I’m holding on too will one day all give out when I leave this world and the insubstantialness of it’s reality on the day that I die reveals itself time and time again in my life, when what I once thought was solid goes away again and again. In the end there is nothing left to hold on to.

Imagine that Christmas night so long ago, in that stable with the animals and Mary and Joseph holding their dear son foretold by the prophets and proclaimed by the angels in whose little hands held the planets and placed the stars in their orbits but at this moment in time is as helpless as a newborn babe and is held safe by His mother and laid down upon the soft nest of straw and swaddling cloths by His father. The almighty became weak and lowly so we who are weak can be held safe in his nativity.

God did this so we may have that safe place that holds us and does not let go. Because God became like us in every respect in that helpless babe that needed to be held safe on Christmas we in every respect are truly that helpless babe who needs to be held safe as well this Christmas. Jesus never had to ask are we coming out of the hurt and brokenness of our lives and our world because He already knew we couldn’t so he said “Ok, hold on,” and came to us.

We thought that nativity of soft straw and swaddling cloths was meant for someone else but it was meant for us to hide within as the Christ child holds us safe

This is how we celebrate Christmas by leaving all of our strength and pride behind, it won’t do us any good anyways. That nest of soft straw and swaddling cloths is only meant for the weak, the powerless, the flawed, the broken and the broken hearted, sinners all that have hope together because Jesus was born to hold on to us. Amen

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