Your Place at the Manger
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Christmas? Is it going out to see the Christmas lights lighting up the neighborhood? Is it going Christmas caroling to shut-ins or friends? Is it spending time around the Christmas tree with loved ones or attending Christmas Eve services? I love all of those traditions, but the tradition that means the most to me is when I can put on a Christmas CD, turn out the lights, ignite a couple of candles and spend some time just gazing at the Nativity scene in our home with traditional Christmas carols quietly playing in the background. It is then that I can quiet myself and just focus on the miarcle of the Christ child.
As I watch the Nativity scene by candle light, I often wonder what it was like to be in that stable on the first Christmas Eve when baby Jesus was born. What was it like for Mary and Joseph to hold the tiny baby in their arm and know that the child they held, their child, was the Savior of the world? What was it like to touch his little newborn hands that would one day heal the sick and and be pierced with nails for our sins?
I also wonder, what was it like for the shepherds, who were working the late shift, to be visited by a choir or angels proclaiming that the Messiah had been born, and then find the babe, just as the angel had told them, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?
As I gaze upon the Nativity set up in our dining room, I wonder what was it like to be a witness there at the manger 2,000 years ago. For Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the animals were blessed with the miracle encounter of our living God born in the flesh. Oh, how I wish that I could have shared in the experience.
But then, I remember the words that the angels told the shepherds on that night so long, long ago: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” (Luke 2:10)
“All the people.” That includes me. That includes you too. Jesus is born for us. We too, are invited to join the rest of the Christmas cast at the manger. It doesn’t matter if we stood in the stable 2,000 years ago or gaze upon the manger tonight. This gift from God is the gift of new life that was meant for everyone. It is a gift that is born anew for anyone who seeks to find the Christ child for themselves.
That is when I realize that my Nativity scene isn’t complete when I set up the animals, the shepherds, the Wise Men, or the angels. It is only complete when you take your place among them, gaze upon the miracle lying in the manger, and rejoice in the awesome love of our living God for yourself.
That, as Linus, from Peanuts, would say, “Is what Christmas is really all about…”