Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Tripping over your nativity scene

AS YOU PULL the much-loved nativity scene out of storage and dust it off for another Christmas, you may well have in mind that favorite, perfect spot in which to display it. Wherever you intend to place it this year, let me suggest you reconsider your plans.

Chances are the location you have chosen is just-so, staging the holy family in a moment of sacred peace. A Hallmark scene. And that’s the problem—it’s domesticating the Christmas story and making it fit into our everyday, Instagram-perfect lives.

In reality, the incarnation was hugely disruptive, a turning point for the world. The “hopes and fears of all the years” were met in the arrival of the Son of God. It was a reset: remember, the calendar started afresh.

Declaring this pivotal moment to the shepherds, the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

But this wasn’t all kumbaya and cake. Bethlehem was a beachhead, not an armistice. The lullaby before the storm. The events that unfolded in the stable (or the cave, or whatever it was) were an invasion of occupied territory. The first baby steps in the great liberation of humankind. There would be sweat and blood.

As a man, Jesus would clarify that the peace He came to give was not like the world’s version (John 14:27). Indeed, He would say that He had not come to bring peace as it was understood, but a sword:

“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:35-39).

Christmas isn’t sleigh tracks in the snow. It’s a line in the sand. It’s not a main street parade. It’s a crossroads. It’s about turning the world right-side up.

With all this in mind, maybe it would be better to put your nativity out in a place where it is highly inconvenient and hugely intrusive. Near the front door so you have to step carefully every time you go out into the world. By the television so you have to reach carefully for the remote when you invite the world into your home.

Somewhere that reminds you God has come not to enrich or accent our lives, but to revolutionize them. We don’t fit Him in to our world. We step into His.

Photo by BigPoppaPete on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND

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