“There is holiness to memory,” Philip Gulley writes in his Christmas in Harmony, and “a sense of God’s presence” in what Gulley calls the “mangers of the mind.”
Perhaps the memories in the manger center on wonderful moments in a decades-long line of Christmas Eve services or the particular way your family lit the Advent candles each year. Other memories in the manger almost certainly focus on Christmas joys, as commonplace as they are special, all wrapped up in the way your mother always orchestrated the trimming of the tree, or the way your father handed out the gifts on Christmas morning, or your family’s favorite egg nog recipe or your clan’s most treasured Christmas stories and shows, movies and music.
From the oldest in the family for whom Christmases now seem to roll around at a once-a-week rate to the youngest little one just learning to focus on the sparkle of the Christmas lights and herself lighting up the family on her first Christmas, everyone has those memories, lovingly placed in the “mangers of the mind.” And each of them is itself a gift from the One who is the greatest Gift ever given and the real center of every joy.
So much beauty.
So much joy.
What is remarkable is that so much of it is all wrapped up just like last year and the year before, or the year 30 years before.
Woe to the family member who messes much with the recipe!
The Christmas Eve package-openers will likely always look askance at the Christmas morning package-openers. The one-at-a-time-while-everyone-watches package openers will always harbor grave doubts about the Cretans who tear into all the presents, every man for himself, all at the same time. Each group will always wonder about the other, what’s wrong with people who would be so crass as to open their presents in that unauthorized way, at that unsanctified-by-time time?
Why are we so bothered — yea, verily, offended — by anyone who dares to fiddle with our Christmas customs?
Because you don’t lightly mess with memories lovingly laid in the mangers of our minds. Yes, the Infant slumbering in the first manger is by far the holiest resident of all, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the memories lovingly placed in the other mangers of our minds aren’t precious in their own right. In their own ways, they point beautifully toward Him.
Too often we think that what we really need to change our lives is something new, something exciting. But Philip Gulley reminds us that “the occasions that change the least are often the very occasions that change us the most.”