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Nestled between the boxes of Christmas decorations, the porcelain nativity scene that I purchased from a local store makes its yearly debut. I dust it off, open the box and gather my children to help me. Gently and so carefully each figurine gets unpacked and placed on our buffet.
The tall wise man gets displayed first. We always confuse him with Joseph so we look at the picture on the box just to make sure we’ve got a wise man. Mexican-short-kneeling wise man goes next. He’s darker and he looks like he belongs to my side of the family. He’s my favorite. And then bowing-down wise man gets placed close to the Mexican-short-kneeling wise man. He stares at our floor as if he’s searching for something. Joseph gets dusted off next, then Mary and the shepherds. Anna, our youngest, finally gets to put baby Jesus in his manger. Every year, she wonders and asks what our lives would look like if we didn’t have a savior. And every year we give thanks for the most amazing gift God gave us — His Son.
It amazes me that no matter how many times we have displayed this nativity scene in the past, my family still stands around it and stares at it. Our imaginations go wild and many questions arise. My favorite discussions involve the wise men. Did they really just see the star right before they set out to find the new King? The Bible doesn’t say that it appeared to them while they traveled. It says it appeared again once they arrived in Jerusalem. What did they see in between? Perhaps like us, they had to travel by faith. They knew they had seen the star over on a certain side of the night sky. Did they hope to see it again? Were they exhausted from the distance they traveled or did they focus on worship? Did they argue or did they encourage each other when the road got rough?
What about Mary? Did she feel anxious? After all, she never really knew when an angel might appear again to give her more news. What did she think about Joseph and what did she think once she saw her baby for the first time? And why did she ponder all these things in her heart?
Mary’s husband Joseph stands next to her in the nativity. The strong father figure of our scene did not choose the easy road even though he could of left Mary quietly. He had legitimate reasons to do so. How did he feel towards Mary? Did he feel love for her or did he feel frustrated because he now journeyed into a difficult situation. Did he set his own interests aside because of what the angel had told him about this baby?
And then the shepherds who stare at the baby in awe, they had just seen angels, apparently a multitude! How many is a multitude? And what did that sound like? Did they immediately believe the angels or did they discuss what had just happened? What did they think about when they first saw the baby?
So many times I’ve gone to bed after such discussions and I’ve contemplated the faith of these people. Do I travel through this life wondering about the direction I’m going with the same determination that the wise men had? Do I trust the Word of God the same way that Mary and Joseph did? Do I feel anxious about everything? Do I ponder the events of my life or do I complain about them? Do I obey the Lord immediately or do I discuss my options?
And then I see the perfect baby. This baby — God incarnate — now among people. This baby — Savior, Redeemer — will die in our place so that we could have eternal life. This baby — creator of our world, our friend — will return to take us home soon. Every year, I wonder and I give thanks for the blessings God has given me. What would my life look like without His grace? Once again, I stare at the same nativity scene from old and I stand in awe of the most amazing gift God gave us — His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus.