All across the country this time of year are yard displays with illuminated nativity scenes. Baby Jesus in a manger, surrounded by Mary & Joseph, angels, wise men, and animals. Have you ever stopped to think, what is it about this story that has caused the manger to remain such a centerpiece in our society for centuries?
I believe part of reason is the hope it offers. It opens our eyes to the possibility of a better world. A world we feel we are incapable of creating ourselves. A world flooded with love, forgiveness, justice and grace. Just a glimpse of current events in our world and you are keenly aware of our inability to imagine, much less create, the world as it should be.
In the Christmas story, Jesus comes not in the way we would expect. He is not born in a palace and draped in velvet. Few, if any, see the son of a king, they only see the son of a carpenter. Jesus is born in the back alleys of Bethlehem under the cover of darkness. Born in a small corner of a massive global empire bent on abusing and oppressing anyone who stands in their way.
But the reality is we are very familiar with this story because we have all heard it before. It is the story that echoes through the blood stained halls of history. A constant and surreal reminder of the way our world works.
So when news of a new king, a new kingdom and a better world begins to spread, it births a deep yearning within our soul. Questions, diluted with doubt, begin to surface. Could there really be a different way? A better way?
It is the way of Jesus – the way of forgiveness. Jesus comes revealing the heart of God the Father. Ultimately, taking the worst sin could possibly do in this world and lovingly saying, “Father, forgive them.”
Part of the beauty of this story is the way in which God comes into the world. Mary is told by God, His Son will dwell inside her and she will be the vessel through which His presence comes into the world. It is the same message God has spoken to you. God’s Son will dwell inside you and you will be the vessel through which His presence comes into the world.
The whole time we thought being a Christian was about not sinning so that we could get into heaven. To get out of this place and into a better place, that was our understanding. Yet the invitation has always been to create the world as it was meant to be by entering into its brokenness and transforming it from the inside out. Create a world where the curse is broken. Create a world where death does not get the last word.
The good news is that this world does exists. And the even better news is Jesus’ invitation is to take part in that world today. Not just have a place within, but to actually contributing to this new world. Partners with God in his reclamation project.
So today, may you be the vessel through which Jesus’ presence enters this broken world, flooding it with love, forgiveness, justice and grace. The next time you see a nativity scene, may it be a reminder of the calling you share.
Grace & Peace!