Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the way it brings out the good in people. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus and worshiping with the people at our church. I love preparing our hearts and our homes. I love pulling out the Christmas decorations that we have collected over the years. Every year I look forward to opening the well-worn boxes and hanging the ornaments at their special places on the tree.
I especially love getting out all of our nativity scenes – this year I counted nine, including the one I keep up all year. I took my time arranging each one and as I was doing the final touch of spreading the hay, I began to think about how different they were. Of course they all include Jesus, Mary and Joseph but after that they all take on the imagination of the one who designed them. Some seem to be historically correct but one of my favorite nativities has the shepherd wearing a fedora of all things. Some of them have baby Jesus barely covered while others have him wrapped tightly against the cold. I got to thinking about that very first Christmas and how we can only wonder what it was really like.
Two-thousand years ago:
The manger on the china hutch
Shows starlight shining low
The nativity in the other room
Has a little bit of snow
What was that night really like
Two-thousand years ago?
The sheep are at the shepherd’s feet
The camels lay outside,
Is the young donkey in the stable
The one that gave Mary a ride?
What were the wise men thinking
As they gazed upon the king?
Did they worship on their knees
Did they hear the angels sing?
They placed their gifts and treasures
On the ground at Jesus’ feet
Did they know that this new babe
Would be the bema seat?
The shepherds looked with wonder
At the truth the angels told
Did they wish they had a gift to bring
Like frankincense and gold?
Were there people crowded ‘round
The place the baby king was born
Or were they still all sleeping
On that very Christmas morn?
That holy night in Bethlehem
Brought good will to men on earth
When God the Father sent his son
To live with men on earth.
We could wonder at what happened
Or believe in what we know,
A savior child was born to us
Two-thousand years ago.
Some details about the birth of Jesus that are unknown to us, like so many things in the Bible that God decided not to reveal, but nativity scenes are a great tradition we can use to tell the Christmas story, even if there’s no camel, or your shepherd is wearing a fedora. The heart of the story is not in those inconsequential details, but in the never-ending love of a God who sent His own Son to be the Savior of world… just living the thing.