When you think of the Christmas story one of the most celebrated objects is the manger. A feeding box for animals that became the makeshift cradle for the Savior of the world, baby Jesus.
The late nineteenth-century Christmas carol “Away in a Manger” by William J. Kirkpatrick remains one of the most beloved Christmas songs ever. It can be heard on the radio and in almost every church’s Christmas Eve service. You are no doubt familiar with the lyrics which begin:
“Away in a manger, no crib for the bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.“
Sounds so nice for a stinky, dirty, germ-ridden food trough.
Also, consider every nativity scene you have ever seen whether live or decorative. What is at the centerpiece? Jesus is a manger. In fact, some people do not even call these nativities they call them “manger scenes.”
But let’s consider what made the whole fascination with the manger a possibility. It was the fact that Mary and Joseph were unable to find lodging because of the census taking place in Bethlehem. Read Luke 2:7.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
I find it very interesting that the greatest story ever told begins with inaccessibility and improvisation. Both things are hallmarks in the life of a person with a disability and for their loved ones.
There is something comforting in knowing that even Jesus and his parents experienced and overcame inaccessibility with improvisation.
I am reminded of the tenacity of families who have children with disabilities. Just a few examples:
- When families travel or even do something as simple as going out to eat. What happens when a child requires personal care and no longer fits on the ADA-required infant-sized changing tables? They improvise to overcome the inaccessibility and turn the back of their van into a changing station.
- When a child is falling behind in school and needs extra help what do parents do? They improvise and overcome the inaccessibility by calling a meeting with the school demanding that accommodations be made for their child, and they don’t take no for an answer!
- When a child who uses a wheelchair wants to get baptized but the baptistry is not accessible what do parents do? They improvise to overcome the inaccessibility by having their child baptized at the YMCA where there is a chair lift poolside.
- A child wants to participate on the school basketball team but is told no because they use a wheelchair or have other mobility issues, what is a parent to do? Improvise and overcome the inaccessibility by starting a school-sanctioned wheelchair basketball team.
These are just a few examples of families that I have witnessed improvising to overcome inaccessibility in their lives. I am sure you could add a dozen more.
Just know next time you encounter inaccessibility there is always a way to improvise and overcome.
The greatest story ever told begins with this theme. Jesus and his earthly parents were no strangers to inaccessibility. Draw comfort and strength from that fact as you continue to fight to overcome. And next time you see a manger at Christmas time remember that in addition to the many other things it represents it also symbolizes overcoming inaccessibility with improvisation