Posted by: pmarkrobb | December 11, 2016

the marginal truth of the manger

The older i get – or maybe better said, the more i grow in my faith – the more the story of Christmas convicts rather than comforts.  i have always been a big kid at Christmastime (and i pray that never really goes away), but as my experience of the Christmas story grows, so does its challenge to how and where i choose to live my life.

Jesus was born into the margins.  Both in the specific setting and the larger narrative of His earthly life, the truth of His becoming one of us is far from the “cozy and comfortable” my life so often resembles.  It is far from the quaint picture of a young couple, peaceful barn animals, shepherds and wise men huddled around a manger.  Jesus was born into crude, not cozy.  His family was on the run not long after he was born.  As an adult, the Son of Man had “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).  And on His road to the cross, He endured the most inhumane treatment imaginable.  That sounds like a life those in the margins would be far more familiar with.

i have spent time in the margins (i wonder if it is more like the outskirts, than the true margins).  And i can certainly say they were shocking places … “shocking” in how much joy and gratitude is common to those places; “shocking” in how much i felt as though i was the one who received the blessing.  i don’t believe God judges my love and enjoyment of the sights and sounds of the season.  But i do believe He wants the ears of my heart to be tuned to how He is moving in the margins, and to respond wholeheartedly when He invites me to participate.

Several years ago, a friend stood up during a time of open invitation at church to share his heart for guests who would be arriving later that evening.  Our church spent one week a year hosting somewhere around 30 homeless men, women (and sometimes children).  In the course of sharing what God had so obviously put on his heart, he spoke words which i don’t believe i’ll ever forget.  “I encourage you to come one or more of the days this coming week and walk the halls and rooms of the church in the middle of the day.  I have, and I feel the very presence of Jesus when I do.”  He was speaking of a portion of the day when the treasured men, women and children were back at the warming center or out amid their chosen activity for the day.  I believe my friend was describing the extra measure of Presence that i also always recognized the week the beautiful men, women and children stayed overnight with us.  i know and believe the truth that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there, but i wonder how much more that might be true when that place is truly in the margins.

i have been in homes which display the impassioned words of the final sentence of Joshua 24:15.  When someone visits my home, they won’t see those words displayed.  But will they leave believing the words were true of us?  Does my home … Does my life … speak the truth of Who i love and serve?  Does it welcome those in the margins?  Does my heart hear their need?  Do my feet take me where they are when the call of God comes?

The truth of our dear Savior’s birth is a marginal one.  He arrived in the margins … and never left.  He did not choose the good fortune and comfort of a palace; He chose a trough.  He did not seek a secure pen and home pasture, but rather went out and perpetually searched for the one who was lost.

We see this scandalous and live-giving truth at the cross, may we also see it in the cradle.



  1. Thank you!! We often push things to the margins in efforts to remove responsibility, credibility, relevance and relationship. Our world does not value the margins and therefore even we as believers can “get away with” unmentionable behaviors toward those who live there as our lives intersect. I hear God’s plea, through journey onWord, to not be quick with assumption and judgement and relocation, but to rather observe, ponder and treasure God’s heart and mind for the margins as the marginal existence of the Son of Man comes. Father, thank You for speaking into my heart and mind with Your truth and love for the margins. I hear You saying that You are “for” them! Not staying away “from” them. And as I write this, I sense You saying that I to am a “margin” that Your Son has come to. Thank You!

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