Christmas – It All Comes Together

December 25, 2021

Putting Christmas together every year has always meant organized chaos in decorating, baking, buying and wrapping, meeting shipping deadlines, and on and on.  Lots of pressure trying to meet the perceived expectations of others.  

One of my favorite parts – a centering and calming part – of the season has been setting up my nativity scenes.  I have several scenes and, in years past, I would go nuts setting up all of them. Unfortunately, that meant they often became no more than one more obligatory Advent set up and post-Epiphany take down.  

But this year things have been different.  

I only set up one Nativity scene – my Hummel creche – a gift of simple beauty given to me long years ago.  While placing the figures in the ‘manger scene, I have tried get some sense of those ordinary people surrounding Jesus’ birth; people whom God used in extraordinary ways. 

Such varied backgrounds. 

Such varied responses to the upcoming birth of Christ. 

Yet, God gathered them all together in a small chaotic town where unexpected peace filled a humble stable, and an itinerant couple finds themselves at the epicenter of God’s drama of hope and love as new life was born to bring hope-filled light and salvation to a world cloaked in darkness.

As I reflect on the scene, there was one scripture that came immediately to mind – and it wasn’t the one I would have expected. In reading Isaiah 43, it all comes together!  Amid of a world in chaos, God gathers the people from all over and brings them into the presence of the source of salvation and peace!

The Advent journey has come to an end.

I invite you to reflect with me in the quiet of Christmas night. 

Rest in the candle glow, the warmth of fireplaces, the fragrance of trees. Consider the manger filled with ordinary folks called during an extraordinary time, and, as you do, consider:

  • Zechariah (the ‘designated theologian’ in the group who limited God’s power to the man’s own limited capabilities) and Elizabeth (Zechariah’s wife who silently accepted God’s impossible possibility of a son).  
    • Zechariah is included in the Advent story – if not in the ‘manger scene’ itself – but as we know, Zechariah was redeemed of his doubt and blessed with a son in his old age. 
      • In Zechariah, we realize hope is there for us as well even when we silently doubt God’s power and presence in our lives.
    • Elizabeth humbly accepted the gift of her son and spoke the first words of blessing over Mary’s pregnancy.  
      • In Elizabeth, we realize there is hope for us, too, if we choose to humbly accept God’s new life taking shape within us when we have all but given up!
  • Joseph, the obedient one  
    • Devout Joseph was willing to grace to the fullest extent of the law, but obedient faith is to be lived beyond our perceptions of what is right and just and into God’s holy compassion
      • In Joseph we realize that God’s righteous compassion is to be shared in overflowing abundance to those in need 
  • Mary’s life changing choice
    • Mary said yes to God, not out of naivety, but rather because of her faith in the power of God to do all things.
      • In Mary we realize the limitless power of God to act in and through us if we will just say ‘yes’ when the Lord calls.
  • The shepherds who ‘come and see’
    • Isaiah 9:1-7 describes them best – In fact, the heavenly host sang some of those very words to those men – ‘the people who walked in darkness’ made their way to the stable and were filled with uncontainable joy – their burden was lifted – and they wanted the world to know!
      • In those shepherds, we realize we, too, are called into the light of God’s presence from the darkness of our past and are not to keep that joy to ourselves but share it with others! 
  • The townspeople and the innkeeper(s) and their benign neglect. (In my Hummel creche, I always include present day childlike figures who look on curiously.)
    • We don’t know what went on in the days following the birth, but Christ remained among the townspeople for sometime; ready to be received, to be held, to be cherished, to be loved. 
      • In those townspeople and the innkeeper(s) the realization is rekindled in us that, even though we might be neglectful of Christ, the Lord never leaves us. The Lord continues to offer us the opportunity to come close and love and be loved by the Holy One, and then share that holy love with others.

When I think of Christ that first night, I think of the One Who gathered up those ordinary folks from all over and brought out the best in them even as He offered them His best:  redemption, humility, righteousness, innocence, joy, patient waiting – all things that come of relationship with Christ and all God has made.

From the outer, darker edges of the stable to the warm glow as we move inside, toward the radiant glory of the new life Who is waiting to be noticed, embraced, celebrated, and worshipped, we are infilled with the holy life – the Christ life – the life of the One Who was born for each of us as though there were only one of us.  

In the manger scene, it all comes together as folks gather in the light of God’s love – God’s life – God’s hope for the the world.  

And this is just the beginning of a new and glorious journey – Merry Christmas! 

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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