As you pack away the manger scene, consider the wooden feeding trough in which the Infant lay. Joseph softened it with straw, and Mary wrapped the Baby in whatever softness she could. Were these holy parents embarrassed by such a poor crib? There’s a lovely Christmas song by Francis Patrick O’Brien titled “Wood of the Cradle.” Its lyrics compare the wood of the cradle and the wood of the cross, one of joy and the other of loss. Our God who was born in a manger died on a tree. Its final notes are enigmatic in their command: “Kneel at the manger and rise from the grave.”

Christmas and New Year’s were far from typical this year. Canceled parties. Family gatherings only by zoom. Expected presents never arriving in time. Empty chairs at the dining room table. Round the clock shifts in hospitals. Political and social uncertainty in unbelievable proportions. The wooden feeding trough was not a typical baby’s crib, but it held the Bread of Life—our blessed food.

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