I’ve been thinking about gravity a lot lately. I’m finished with physical therapy for the injury that kept me from running for many months, but during many of my sessions, I got to run on an AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill.
This high-tech treadmill lets you choose to run with as little as 20 percent of your body weight, all the way back up to 100 percent. When you run on this machine, until you set it back up to 100 percent, you are defying gravity.
During one of my last sessions, after I’d already graduated back to a regular treadmill, my physical therapist showed me a video of a blind runner using the AlterG. It was the first time he had been able to run on a treadmill without holding on with his hands. As he swung his arms back and forth, he exclaimed, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. This is amazing.”
There are parts of the Advent story that defy gravity, too, just a different sort of gravity. Mary ignored the gravity of her situation and agreed to become a mother out of wedlock. Joseph ignored the gravity of staying betrothed to a pregnant woman and instead believed an angel telling him to stay with her. Together, they and Jesus (and one might argue everyone else in Bethlehem, too) defied the gravity of His birth, and a simple stable became the birthplace of the King of kings.
One of my readers responded this way to last week’s poll about favorite nativity figures: “The whole thing! A stable as the birthplace of the Son of God! How absurdly wonderful!”
The season of Advent challenges our ideas of where kings should be born, and Jesus’ entire life and ministry was meant to challenge our assumptions about God and faith. My reader is right: it’s absurd and wonderful.
The empty stable isn’t the beginning of the Christmas story, but it’s a great place to sit and ponder how to defy the gravity of this season.
If you’re weighed down with shopping lists, and recipes left to make, with travel worries, and presents still to wrap, and concerns about how you’ll ever pay those post-Christmas bills, I invite you to sit and gaze at this empty stable for a few minutes. Just a quiet few minutes.
It sits empty now, waiting to be filled with the figures (and characters) of the Christmas story. Can you see the empty stable as a preparation for defying gravity?
Perhaps as we draw closer to Christmas, we can let the story of Christ’s birth—with its gravity and absurdity and wonder—sink in to our hearts and our brains, and we can say, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. This is amazing.”
A big thank you to my dear friend who let me photograph her nativity stable. She emptied it out, even of the barn cats and wayfaring stranger who hang out in the top of the stable, so I could take a picture of it empty. She shared the wonderful story of her husband building the stable with wood from their back yard when their children were young. She worried it would be too rustic a stable for me, but I think it’s perfect: moss and all.
Do you have Christmas decorations that remind you of Christmases past, of joys of your childhood or of your children’s childhood? Sometimes, simpler is better because it can transport us back to the days when Christmas was pure joy.