By Curtis Shelburne
At first the quotation I’m about to share may sound a bit cynical, but when you have a little time to think about it, I think you’ll agree with me that it is not only realistic and true, it is filled with hope.
You see, when God came into this world “in the flesh,” he was laid in a manger, a feed trough, in a stable surrounded by everything anyone in first century Palestine would expect to find in such a place — including the very thing you can find in ample supply in almost all stables today — a serious and almost unending supply of manure.
So a gentleman named Morse has written, “That the treasure of God’s grace reaches us surrounded by garbage will not seem surprising to anyone who is personally familiar with life in the church. … Grace comes to us, so Martin Luther argues, hidden sub contrario, beneath its opposite. From this perspective, any idealized view of the church as only treasure is as faulty a vision of reality as any cynical view that the church is only garbage. Mangers, by definition, are found where there is manure.”
You see, God comes to us “while we were yet sinners” — while we are as we always are — not what we wish we were, but what we are.
God comes to us as the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest!”
God comes to us as as those shining and mighty heralds proclaim the amazing message that the Savior has been born — and with that wonderful news comes the accompanying note that is almost as surprising — that we common mortals whom God’s Son has been born to save are those “on whom his favor rests.”
When the God of the universe comes to us, the amazing paradox is most fitting: He comes as the heavenly hosts sing, as heavens lit up with splendor declare the glory of God, but he comes in a tiny helpless form, lying in a manger, God in a most unlikely situation and shape, but having entered that situation and taken that shape, most likely crying just like any other of a thousand little babies, even those lying in far more appropriate cribs. And he comes surrounded by manure that smells, I think you can be sure, just like the manure in any of a thousand other stables.
In that manner of coming, we see God’s grace shining even more brightly than the Christmas star, and in that paradox of his coming, we find our best, our truest, our only, our highest hope.
God comes to us not as we wish we were, but as we are.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at