Who Was Really There?
(From Rev. Laurie DeMott, retired pastor, Alfred Union University Church, 12.12.16)
Luke 2:15-20 (The Message)
My son, John, began his Christmas decorating the other day and his girlfriend posted a picture to Facebook of the small creche John had arranged on a side table. In John’s nativity scene, the baby Jesus lies sleeping while Mary and Joseph gaze in adoration surrounded by a shepherd, the kings, and two sheep. The kings, however, can’t get as close to Jesus as they may have liked because R2D2 is hogging the space by the manger, staring down at the baby. On the other hand, the kings have time to wait their turn knowing they are safe from the wrath of Herod because Han Solo, Yoda, and a storm trooper stand guard at the stable door. The three have put aside their differences on this holy night to keep watch over the newborn Christ child. (Luke is presumably patrolling the perimeter in the X-Wing affixed to the nearby Christmas tree.)
John turned 30 this year but his creche scenes haven’t changed much since he was five and I first gave him his own nativity to set up in his room. You could never tell who might show up to greet the baby in John’s creche: most often it was Star Wars characters, but Lego people sometimes wandered in, or that year’s favorite action figure. To be fair to John, he might have been influenced by the deer, wolves, and dog figurines that I often add to my own nativity scenes, and of course, Asterix, Obelix, and the characters from a small Gallic village have been known to gather at my creche, as well.
I, in fact, have five creche scenes that I set up every year and they are my favorite Christmas decorations, not only because of the centrality of the nativity story to Christmas, but also because each creche scene tells more than just the story of the birth of Jesus. One scene was made in Bangladesh and its purchase helped lift local crafts people from poverty. Another is a creche I handmade from salt dough my first year in Alfred, so that creche and I have marked every Christmas together since I became an independent adult. Another creche was made for the church bazaar, and a fourth was given to me by my mother and father, whose passing has made that creche even more meaningful to me. The last of the five is a stuffed creche which has survived the not-so-tender attention of kids and dogs for over thirty years, leaving the characters as worn as I often feel!
To me, a nativity scene should represent not only that first Christmas morning but also all of the ways in which Christmas continues to enter our lives and our world, from the hands who made it to the characters who people it. If a creche scene is so “holy” that we cannot touch it or invite new people into the story, then it stops being meaningful; Jesus becomes a museum piece which has little to do with real life. Isaiah used the imagery of his time to describe our longing for peace when he said, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” What better way to communicate that same longing today than to place a Stormtrooper and Yoda, sworn enemies, side by side in the stable?
In our fragmented society, where hate feels more powerful than love, we should invite everyone we can to our nativity scenes to remind ourselves that God’s peace is offered to all the earth. The child born at Christmas will grow to a man who calls us to lay down our swords, to seek peace for ourselves and others, so that all the world may be saved.
God invites everyone into the presence of peace. [Thanks be to God.]
Rev. Lisa Drysdale, January 1, 2023