“Oh, if only I could see that manger in which the Lord was laid! As a tribute of honor, we Christians have now removed the mud-baked one and replaced it with a silver one; but the one that has been removed is more precious to me! Silver and gold are appropriate for the pagan world: the manger of baked mud is more fitting for the Christian faith…. I am amazed that the Lord and Creator of the world was not born amid gold and silver, but in the mud.”
– St. Jerome
Some time after the birth of our Lord, the magi presented the Christ child with the precious gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh. These gifts are most appropriate for a king and the King did not despise them. But before the royal gifts, the King chose the mud. And he did not despise the mud either. Indeed the mud is no less his creation than gold or silver is. It seems that the Lord restores to us the dignity of mud and dirt in his incarnation. We might despise them, but he does not.
As I reflect on this last semester, and I think about my own work (I speak only for myself here), it feels to me more like mud than gold. It felt like scraping by. It felt like survival. It’s hard for me not to focus on what was lost, on what “might have been”, on what “the locusts have eaten”. The offerings of gold that I had been so excited to offer to the King a year ago seem to have rusted away. It feels like I was left with mud.
But His incarnation speaks. It says that mud is not without its own dignity. It says that while the story has been that we “came from mud and to mud we shall return”, that He has changed that story. He became one of us muddy, carbon-based beings, whose origins are from the dust. And instead of returning back to the mud, His mortal body was clothed immortal. And our muddy bodies will also be clothed immortal with His. This was made possible by the Incarnation. This is our story now.
So as you look back on this last semester, and whether it seems like it was an offering of gold or a muddy mess, remember that they both belong to him. He despises neither. He makes both mud and gold fit for a King—fit for Himself.
The Peace of our Incarnate Christ to you!