What a whirlwind Advent and Christmas were– and what a delight it was to have a packed church on Christmas Eve! Now the Wise Ones are inching towards Bethlehem (although they will make it in time for Epiphany–January 6– we don’t actually observe the feast until the Sunday after Epiphany, January 12). In our crèche scene in the church, they move a few inches closer each day!
Since it figured rather prominently in my Christmas Eve sermon, here’s an image, and a snippet from the sermon. You may be glad to know that on Christmas Day we received a gift of a Jesus figure–although kind of abstract (appropriately so, perhaps!)–for the parlor crèche:
This past Sunday, after the service, there were folks getting everything decorated for Christmas, from the Sanctuary to the parlor. The big crèche was unpacked here [in the church], and the animals and people were positioned very lovingly. As I was heading over to the parlor, Dave stopped me to look at it, and asked if we should switch Mary and Joseph, because Joseph seemed to have a large crack down his middle. We tried it the other way and saw that there was an even bigger crack on his other side. We decided it really was OK for the cracks and dents and chipped paint to be seen. It made it feel that much more real.
When I got to the parlor, another crèche was being set up. This one had a ton of animals, two Mary’s, one Joseph, no obvious Jesus and a wise man whose broken-off head had been replaced with a small Christmas ornament. I couldn’t help but think about Ann Weems’ plastic angel poem [used for the Contemporary Reading], and knew immediately that it would make the perfect contemporary reading for tonight. The crèche scene in the parlor was probably three or four crèches, of varying sizes and materials. But the folks setting it up didn’t screen anything out–there was an amputee horse with a lot of tape, a shepherd that was twice as large as anything else in the set, some completely unidentifiable animals, and everyone was welcome in the piano-top scene.
Doesn’t the plastic angel, two Mary’s, a wise man with a broken-off head, Joseph with cracks and dents, speak to us about the essence of Christmas? God does not expect us to be perfect. We are not alone. Fear needn’t overwhelm us. Christmas is, I think, for real people, like me and you, who have our own cracks and dents and fears. I don’t think it’s really about those picture-perfect holiday magazines in the grocery store check-out line.
As Ann Weems says, “If the plastic angel can get this far, perhaps there’s a place in Bethlehem town for me.”
May you enjoy the few remaining days of Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!
Yours in faith,