"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reflection over a Christmas sermon

From a sermon by Mark Frank:
... But though he was content to be wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and those none of the handsomest, neither, may we not look for a cradle at least to lay him in?  No matter what we may look for, we are like to find no better than a manger for that purpose, and a lock of hay for his bed, and for his pillow, and for his mantle too.  A poor condition, and an humble one indeed, for him whose chariot is the clouds, whose palace is in heaven, whose throne is with the Most High.  What place can we hereafter think too mean for any of us?  Stand thou here, sit thou there, under my foot-stool -- places of exceeding honor compared to this.  What, not a room among men, not among the meanest, in some smoky cottage, or ragged cell; but among beasts?  Whither hath thy humility driven thee, O Saviour of mankind? ...
Thy poverty, O sweet Jesu, shall be my patrimony, thy weakness my strength, thy rags my riches, thy manger my kingdom; all the dainties of the world, but chaff to me in comparison of thee; and all the room in the world, no room to that, wheresoever it is, that thou vouchsafest to be.  Heaven it is wheresoever thou stayest or abidest; and I will change all the house and wealth I have for thy rags and manger.
I was struck by these words when I read them during my prayer time the other day.  I find the closing sentences particularly well crafted, eloquently expressing such a noble and loving devotion to our Lord.  Though, I suppose it would be easy enough to dismiss them as so much sentimentality, that is not how I read them (and I certainly don't doubt Frank's sincerity).  Rather, they have given me pause to consider my own devotion, such as it is.  Can I honestly say that I consider all the riches of this life as "but chaff in comparison" to Christ?

I think of myself as a fairly simple person.  I'm not ambitious.  The idea of being wealthy has never held much attraction for me (good thing, since I don't think I ever will be -- at least not by American standards, which, I grant, are obscene).  I tend to eschew extravagance.  I'm pretty easily satisfied.  Like Tolkien, I'm really a hobbit at heart.  Give me a pint of ale, some good food, and a stack of books by the fire, and I'll not ask for more.  Simple.  And yet, if I'm to be honest, I must admit that I'm pretty attached to my own little luxuries.  I may have relatively modest ideas about what constitutes "the good life", but it's a life I thoroughly enjoy.  Can I honestly say to my Lord, "I will change all the house and wealth I have for thy rags and manger"?

With Saint Brendan I ask, "Shall I abandon, O King of Mysteries, the soft comforts of home?"
And with him I pray, "Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.  Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with you."



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