In his Christmas Eve service, Pastor Alex issued a challenge. When we pack away our Christmas decorations—the lights and tinsel and giftwrap and ornaments, he asked us to keep our nativity scene set up. Put it in a prominent place in our home where we’ll see it through the highs and lows of the coming year.
We don’t need to keep the whole elaborate scene up but, he said, there are three characters of the Christmas story who need to be there.
Mary—The mother of Jesus is a symbol of faith. She was likely a very young teen when the angel visited her. She bore the disgrace of a pregnancy before marriage as well as the misunderstanding of her husband-to-be. Imagine being a thirteen or fourteen year-old girl visited by an angel, becoming pregnant and delivering a baby just as the angel said, all while knowing you’ve never been intimate with a man. Wouldn’t that build a bedrock of faith?
Joseph—The earthly father of Jesus symbolizes obedience. He loved Mary, and must have been deeply hurt to find out she was pregnant. He planned to divorce her quietly until an angel told him, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Joseph apparently didn’t question the instructions; he immediately took her to be his wife. And later, when an angel warned him of Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus, Joseph didn’t hesitate. He got up, packed the family van and headed down to Egypt. No questions. No hesitation. That’s obedience.
Jesus—Immanuel. God with us. No matter what happens, the Creator of the universe who hung the stars and calls each one by name came to do life with us. He’s with us in every good thing that happens and in every bad thing that stuns us and knocks us down. We’re not in this alone. He’s with us. Immanuel.
Christmas has impact far beyond the one day a year we celebrate. Keeping that nativity scene up in a prominent spot will help us hold onto faith in the coming year when people misunderstand us, when we suffer disgrace, when everything seems contrary to what we know. It will inspire us to obey without hesitation. And it will remind us that God is with us. In the best of times and the worst of times. Immanuel.
Will you join me in accepting the challenge to keep a nativity scene out all year?