Manger lacked inaugural pomp

By Krista Kafer ( “Ritter’s inaugural week jampacked” the Rocky Mountain News’ headline exclaimed a few days ago. The week for Gov.-elect Bill Ritter is to begin on the 9th of January with the swearing-in ceremony. Two days later, the new governor will be honored at an inaugural dinner followed by a concert featuring his favorite country music star. Next the governor will be whisked away on a train tour of the Front Range ending in Pueblo where a spaghetti dinner awaits him at the Pueblo Union Depot. The inaugural committee is busy sending invitations to dignitaries, Members of Congress, other elected officials, and civic leaders. The cost of the events is expected to top out at $750,000.

What if the plans were different? Imagine if instead of Denver and the Front Range, the new leader chose to go to La Junta on the plains. Rather than invite prominent officials, civic leaders, campaign funders, and other distinguished individuals, he invited the night cleaning crew from the nearby Wal-Mart and some unknowns from out of the country. And what if instead of surrounding himself with flashing cameras and cheering supporters, he chose a bunch of pack animals. Then rather than take the stage as a man in his prime attired in a suit and tie, he entered as a tiny infant swaddled in scraps of cloth.

Why would he do that? Leaders announce their arrival with power and grandeur not weakness and austerity. Yet, 2000 years ago, when God came down to walk among men He chose the company of beasts of burden, the working poor, and foreigners – those outside the circle of power. What does that say about this ultimate leader of men, Jesus of Nazareth, that he chose them to be his honored guests?

I am reminded of a passage in the Old Testament where the prophet Elijah weary and despondent listens for God’s message.

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1Kings 11-13

In the whisper Elijah heard God.

An image stirs in my mind rough-hewn and earthy, a hard contrast with the glitz of inaugural events I’ve attended. I am listening to the hooves of donkeys scraping at the hay, the praises of shepherds huddled in the doorway, and the cries of an infant in the arms of a new mother. Here God’s message begins in a whisper audible among common sounds.

Like Elijah, I am weary and the message resonates in a deep place. It is a comfort to me that while I expect to find God in the great and triumphant, He often prefers to speak in humble places. Outside of the circle of power, among animals, the poor, and foreigners, He entered his kingdom. He is truly with us.

Merry Christmas.