On Being Shipwrecked
Brennan Manning in his essay, Shipwrecked at the Stable, likens those who find themselves kneeling low to catch a glimpse of the holy one in the stable to the shipwrecked of the world. He quotes author Jose Ortega who says, “And this is the simple truth – that to live is to feel oneself lost. Whoever accepts this has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look around for something to which to cling.”
I still remember being a little girl, standing on the shore of Lake Michigan for the first time. I was awed by the sheer magnitude of the moving blue expanse before me. Standing on a large piece of driftwood, wave after wave threatened to knock me down. The beauty, power and immensity of the water captured a firm place in my heart. Those who know me best know that I have a deep and somewhat absurd love for the ocean, and any large body of water that tricks my mind into thinking it is a never-ending expanse of azure beauty. That something so beautiful contains such power and majesty has thrown my heart down off of whatever piece of driftwood I might be clinging to in life and laid me low at the foot of its creator, the Messiah King time and time again.
Being one of the shipwrecked myself, I have to wonder about the shipwrecked in the Christmas story. The few who appeared at the foot of the manger, each of them gazing in wonder at the hope of the world. I can’t help but wonder about their lives. I wonder what the shepherds were talking about just before the angel of the Lord appeared. Were they talking about the day’s news? Maybe they were commiserating about the struggles of living under the cruel authorities that ruled them? Or perhaps, they were seeking honest help from a good friend in how best to get through to that one beloved child who seemed to be choosing a less than desirous path? Sickness in the family threatening to steal away the life of a loved one? The harsh weather threatening their fold of sheep? Again, we simply don’t know. But these men, just like all of those who made their way to the manger were people just like me and just like you. Their hurts and problems were as painfully real as ours today. They were living their hum-drum lives out on what appeared another ordinary day. Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t anything like ordinary. In a moment’s notice, the ordinary turned into the extraordinary.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to men on
Whom his favor rests.’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
They hurried off. The angel of the Lord told them of this extraordinary gift of hope and they hurried off to find him. They ran to him with the desperation of the shipwrecked, with honest seeking. God breathed into their circumstances, through this wondrous baby who was the King of Kings. An encounter with this baby, and their lives were changed forever. Hope is a wonderful thing. God in his great mercy offers it to each of us every day. His unbelievable gift of hope and salvation is in the words of the angel, “…for all the people…” Come join the shipwrecked at the stable. I’ll be there. There is simply no other place to be.