We have been so blessed to be with our families this Christmas. This is an uncertain time for many and plans continue shifting with each passing day. While Mary and Joseph were not battling a pandemic, they certainly knew something about plans changing, and then changing again, and again.
While at my parents home, my mom had put out a new nativity scene. It’s a unique set from my uncle who passed away this year. She had carefully placed each figure so they all could be seen and admired. It was clear that this set had a special place in the room and we were all drawn to it when we first got there.
Later on in the day, my mom came into the kitchen, laughing. “Someone went and rearranged the nativity. It’s ok though, I’ll fix it later.” I went to look at it and laughed myself. All her careful spacing was gone. Instead, there was a crush of figures and animals all vying for a place in the simple stable.
There was this energy about it. The animals were huddled together, for warmth? The wise men appeared to be more craning their necks for a better look instead of inclining them in reverence. The shepherd is scooched so close to Mary he almost looks like he’s touching her depending on the angle you approach from.
We left the nativity just like this for the duration of our stay. As we were getting ready to leave, I was thinking about what to write for a Christmas message for you all. Immediately, this thought about how this version, this vision of the nativity, is probably closer to the truth than the staged one. Imagine the shepherds, they heard the good news from the angels and were astonished. They rushed to Bethlehem. Do you really think they stood far outside the door, peeking in over one another’s shoulders? When the wise men came, did they send their gifts via messenger?
The visitors were compelled to come and see. In artwork up and down the centuries we see this scene depicted. There is a closeness, an intimacy, surrounding the Holy Family. That is what my kids captured in their nativity scene. Not only were the figures edging in as close as they could, but you as the viewer have to get closer to see into the action. “What’s happening? What are they all looking at? Why are they pressed in so close?”
As we journey in these last days to Christmas, I have to stop and wonder, which nativity scene am I participating in? Am I keeping Christ at a distance, even in this moment of the sweet little Christ-child? Am I only peeking in, not allowing myself to fully enter the mystery of my Savior coming to me? Or, am I walking in, sitting down next to Mary and looking into Jesus’s eyes? Am I coming to Christmas Mass with all the anticipation and excitement of the shepherds and wise men? Or, am I caught up in the amount of glitter my daughters’ dresses are going to leave on the pew and the cracker crumbs the little boys will sprinkle behind them?
This Christmas is, yet again, not what we would call “normal.” But Jesus is still coming. He is still waiting for you to scooch in closer, to come and see. This has not changed and will never change. I hope you are able to make it to Mass on Christmas Eve or Day. And when you go, I hope you spend some time with the nativity scene there. Take a few moments and really look, really participate. See Mary’s bent head, her eyes fixed on Jesus. See Joseph standing or sitting with them, protectively keeping watch over his precious family. See Jesus, the innocent child, come to save us all.
If you need a prayer to say when you spend time with the nativity , I’ll leave the lyrics to a lovely song by Rebecca St. James called “A Cradle Prayer.” Here is the link to the music if you would like to listen to it.
Jesus I love you my Lord my life
Where would I be without you
Here in the quiet, the still, the night
I am in awe of you
Trials may come and friends they may go What really matters is you my Lord
Beautiful Savior my God, my friend
I am in awe of you
Lord I am in awe of you
Why would you, Creator and King, come as a baby for all, for me?https://genius.com/Rebecca-st-james-a-cradle-prayer-lyrics
I am wishing you a very Merry Christmas. One full of intimacy, even at a distance. One full of love and family, even if it’s through a window or screen. One full of Christ’s love, which is with you always.