Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.
Proverbs 14: 4
I hate to admit the impatient part of me is hurried to pack up Christmas and move on. The house is a mess and it’s driving me nuts! I can’t sweep the floor fast enough to keep up with the trail of crumbs. The laundry literally fell out of the shoot on.top.of.me. Gratefully it’s soft. Heavy, but soft. Pieces and parts of plastic games, toys, and packaging are multiplying before my very eyes. The poinsettias are wilting, the tree is ready to receive its last rights, and let’s just say the stockings are no longer hung by the chimney with care. In fact, two out of six are currently nowhere to be found.
I am so afraid to step foot in the garage I’ve bolted the door shut. The mess in there sends shivers up my spine. The refrigerator needs a complete detox and, of course, so do I. I’d clean the fridge out now, but the dishwasher is bloated full, too, and there is no room for more tupperware.
Yet the nativity is still very much on my heart. I spent the last five weeks preparing myself for the celebration of our Lord’s birth. I’ve thought about the Holy Night as I’ve cooked, cleaned, prayed, and moved through the Advent season. I thought about the sheep and the shepherds as I watched Ellie perform in the 1st grade Christmas pageant. I thought about the Wise Men who brought three gifts to their newborn King as I picked out three gifts to give the Littles Christmas morn. And, mostly I thought about Mary. As a mother of four, I am in awe of how God called her to carry Christ in her womb and deliver Him to all the world. Yes, the nativity is still very much on my heart.
But, now I’m tired. The anticipation and wonder of that still, precious, holiest of holy nights has come and gone. And it’s left a physical mess in it’s wake. Truthfully I’m a spiritual mess too — dry and drained. Not only is our house a wreck, I’m feeling like one too. How is it that possible? Of all the times to feel spiritually drained, now? It doesn’t make sense. So, I prayed. And prayed. And I prayed.
My Gracious God answered. And knowing that I was in pretty bad shape, He answered quickly. Wanna know what the answer was?
What in the world does an ox have to do with the legopollypocketlittlepeoplebarbie tsunami that just destroyed my house?!? Apparently a lot.
The scripture from Proverbs 14:4 that God put on my heart spoke to me loud, but not so clear at first. And because I’m not up to speed on bovine facts, I needed to dig a little deeper to fully understand exactly what the Lord wanted me to know about the ox. I have to admit, I’m relieved He didn’t use the ass for this teaching lesson. Thank you God!
While we generally assume there were animals present at the birth of Jesus, scripture does not place an ox at the familiar nativity scene. The ox, however, has been present throughout scripture and is found in both the Old and New Testaments.
The ox was important enough to be written into the Law of Moses. In Deuteronomy 25: 4 Moses tells the Israelites “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain”. Later, Paul explains to the church in Corinth “For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it about the oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing the harvest.” 1 Corninthians 9: 9 – 10.
So why the ox? Because oxen are the workers of the harvest! They tread out the grain. They pull the plow. Oxen are stronger than horses and can be (painstakingly) trained with verbal commands. They are used to move obstinate and immovable loads. Hmmm…
As we move on from the nativity, the Lord is calling me to go forward like an ox. Not defeated and tired by mess and distraction. But filled with the strength and patience that can only be found in the gift that started life in a manger.
Where are my fields? At home, with Husband and the four Littles. And on the pages of this blog. It is here that I am called to sow spiritual seed. To tend, to plow, to nurture these fields. Jesus tells us to open our eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4: 35).
And so I go. Into the field, not exactly sure what to expect. But, certain that the Lord will provide all that I need as I work for Him like an ox, so that someday He will be glorified with the firstfuits of the crops sown from these fields.
Stay tuned, this should be interesting….
In the meantime, what messes do you have in your life, spiritual or otherwise? And do you have a plan to address it the new year? I’d love to hear.