Of churches and barns
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger…
Traveling though the Palestinian countryside on the bus, we passed a couple of Palestinian farms. It was January and cold, and seeing them reminded me of my growing up years on the farm.
I remembered the cold winter evenings in the barn, helping my dad milk the cows. Neighbors and people from town would drop in, sometimes to buy milk or eggs, but some-times just to talk. I remembered sitting there listening to the stories the grownups would tell, about the big snow of ’28, about how it was colder and the snow was deeper than when they were kids. They’d talk about other things too, like how they ought to check on the widow Kellogg and make sure she was OK, or about how so-and-so was doing in the hospital and maybe they should check on his family.
Sometimes people would stop because their car broke down, or they ran out of gas. My dad would usually stop what he was doing and help. Life began and ended in that barn. Kittens and calves were born there, and my favorite collie died there. Sometimes babies were brought to visit, and sometimes death took others away, except in our mem-ories. It was a warm and special place.
Maybe church should be like a barn, a warm and special place; a place where people gather, especially when the world seems cold; a place where stories are told, stories about Abraham and David and Paul and, of course, Jesus, born in a barn and laid in a manger; a place where we share our concerns about others and stop what we’re doing and help; a place where life begins and ends, except in our memories. Yes, church should be like a barn, or at least it seems like it should.
Lord, let me remember that Jesus was born in a barn and laid in a manger. Let me remember that the barn where I grew up was a warm and special place and that church can also be a warm and special place. Help me to do what I can to make our church such a place. Amen.