Thursday, December 22, 2011
We all have them - nativity scenes. Through the years I've had several. One year my sister gave me a modern set, done in oranges, teals and plum. Right now I have a set on a small wooden table, carved in wood by an artist who attends Harvest Bible Chapel Paynesville - that's in Liberia. I have a second scene sitting on my sofa table, done in pale blues and hazy white, well out of the reach of little fingers.
A third hangs from a nob in my kitchen - it's one of those banners with 25 pockets on the bottom, numbered and filled with stuffed characters found in a typical nativity scene. There is velcro on the back of each character and day after day we are supposed to take a piece and place it on the stable which is on the top half of the banner.
In truth, this is the one the babies play with here at my house. Ashley will pull each character out of it's pocket, taste them to see if any are edible and then drop them to the floor. Norah couldn't care less about the characters or the scene. She has tunnel vision for the wooden dowel rod that hold the banner in place. So she struggles for nearly 10 minutes to free the banner from the stick and then will wave the rod wildly over her head in victory. After that, she'll whack anyone who comes near, with a giggle, of course.
We all have them, right?
So do me a favor in the next day or so. Grab your coffee or tea (that's for you, Beth) and pull a chair over to your nativity scene, take a deep breath and dream a bit. Look at each character and slip into his or her sandals for a few moments. Mary, no doubt, was pretty worn out by the time Jesus arrived. Do you remember when your first was born? Imagine what Mary was thinking and feeling? No mother around, just Joseph...and her first visitors were shepherds!
What was going through Joseph's mind? How did he handle the delivery? What was it like looking into the face of God, holding his tiny hand, swaddling his newborn body?
And the shepherds - imagine their story. From the hills of Bethlehem, into a dingy stable, gazing upon the long-awaited Messiah...God had come...what did they smell? What did they hear? What did they say to the parents? What was their life like after that incredible night?
Don't forget the angels - last I heard my husband is going to chat about this on Sunday, so I won't steal his thunder, but imagine being sent to the shepherds, not kings, to announce this news! Were the angels confused? Was Gabriel there? Gabriel had given the good news to Mary and Joseph, so you'd think he'd be there for Jesus' birth...what did the angels think about seeing God as a baby? Was there a spiritual attack going on that no one could see?
Of course the wise men didn't arrive until later, but most nativity sets include them, so slip into their shoes for a moment. What was that star they had seen? Did they suspect Herod's intentions before the angel came to them with the warning? Did they understand the Jewish scriptures enough to know His destiny? Did their gifts reveal what they knew? How long was their journey and was it easy to avoid Herod on their way home?
And finally...Jesus. Look at Him last. I don't know that we can slip into His swaddling cloths but think through these questions - What kind of baby was He? What would a perfect baby be like? How did He change the dynamics in the home? Even at 12, He bore the weight of His calling - how did that present itself in His daily life? I hope to ask Mary about His childhood someday, don't you?
It's nearly an unbelievable scene. It has been so marketed and character-ized that most don't believe it was true anymore. But God's Word gives us the details of Jesus' birth and it is a profitable thing to spend time meditating on the arrival of the Son of God to earth. I hope you can find a few minutes to immerse yourself in the real Christmas story before the holiday slips away and life returns to it's crazy pace.
Merry Christmas, friends...