Advent and Christmas have once again flown by in a flurry of preparation and celebration. I had every intention of slowing down this year, and allowing space for quiet reflection and special family time. While some of that did happen, what I found instead was a season disrupted by God working in different ways than I had planned. Throughout December, I felt God's presence in each disruption to my "schedule" and found that those disruptions were true moments of incarnation, deep love and faith.
So as I clean up from Christmas, I have been reflecting on how this year's celebration of Christ's arrival brings new hope to my world. Each of those Advent disruptions hold their own hope and joy, and will continue to offer opportunity for continued growth in ministry. However, I keep coming back to the creche...
During one of our Advent family nights, I set out kits of supplies for each child to make a wooden nativity scene. The children excitingly jumped into the project, arranging the pieces and gluing them in place. As you can see from the picture of a few of their projects, many followed the traditional image we all have of the scene with the Holy Family in their rightful places in the stable. Some of our younger children, however, had their own ideas about how the pieces should go together and created nativity scenes with a little more story in the beloved narrative.
Joseph on the roof of the stable? Maybe he is keeping watch over his family. Or maybe he just needed to get out for a little air. Use your imagination.
Jesus' halo on the floor of the stable? Perhaps it is a gift left by one of his visitors. Or maybe it was a little too uncomfortable for a newborn. A child's illustration allows us to consider the weight of the role this baby was born into.
By far, my favorites are the two scenes in the front. Neither subscribed to the traditional form for the stable. On the left, one young man created a cozier interpretation of the straw-filled manger along with some of the natural disorder that giving birth brings, and we are challenged to consider our own assumptions about what the scene really looked like. Peaceful and calm and quiet? Or noisy and messy and real? How did God come into the world? How does God come into our lives?
And finally, on the right, one of our youngest boys presents a completely unique view of how the pieces should fit together to tell a story. Joseph gets left out of this one, but there is a lot of room for wondering about what Mary and Jesus are doing and how they are feeling. At first glance, it looks like there is a plank to walk and what three year old hasn't wanted to add a "walk the plank" element to every story we tell? But maybe this young man was just elevating the people in the story to a different height or perspective. Or maybe we can see something new in their relationship to one another and to God and to the life of faith that lies before them.
The Christmas story is one of my favorites to tell and wonder about with children because there is so much wonder and hope and promise. As we grow up, however, we find ourselves more and more constricted by the tradition of the story. We set up the nativity scene with the people in their rightful places just like we often go through the rituals of the season without really considering the wonder of God's coming. As I clean up this year, I find myself wondering what new meaning Christmas will have on my life in the year to come. How will I find myself living out the possibility and promise of God's incarnation? How have I rearranged the creche pieces to discover new hope and growth? How will I allow the living Word of God to live in my life?
May each of us find new ways to live as Christmas people.