Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come adore on bended knee Christ,
the Lord, the new born King!
Welcome to the season of Advent, the four weeks of preparation for the second biggest celebration of the Christian year, the nativity of the Christ child. (Bonus points: do you know what the biggest one is?)
One of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas is putting up the nativity scene in our house. Actually, I like to collect nativities, so we have quite a few to unpack and arrange each year. Some of them are very small – just the three figures Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Others include a whole cast of angels, shepherd, magi and animals. We have nativity scenes from Israel, Kenya, Peru and several other countries. Some are tiny, some are ornaments to hang on the tree, and some take up a whole bookshelf. It’s amazing how many different ways people have envisioned this holy scene!
This year our theme for Advent is Living the Nativity. Most of us are familiar with a living nativity, a reenactment of the Christmas story using live people and animals. Our children put on a live nativity every year during the Christmas Pageant. If you’ve ever seen the Radio City Christmas show, you’ve seen one of the most extensive living nativities complete with townspeople and camels.
The very first nativity scene was a living nativity created by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223 in Greccio, Italy. As Larry Peacock explains in his Advent devotional book The Living Nativity, “Francis wanted everyone to see, in their own time and place, what the love of God looks like and the extent to which God would bend to restore human dignity.”
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about here too, as people of faith, as a church, especially during this season of Advent? To help everyone see, in their own time or place, what the love of God looks like and the extent to which God will bend down toward us to restore to us, not just our dignity, but our healing, wholeness and hope for the world and the future? What might it mean for us to “live the nativity,” make the nativity come to life in our own lives? How can we show the world what God’s love looks like? How do we bring the good news of Christ’s coming to life today, in our lives and in our world? This is our hope and challenge this Advent season.
As we begin our Advent journey and travel towards Bethlehem, as we gather at the manger on Christmas Eve, as we follow the star to Epiphany, let’s not just put up the nativity. Let’s live the nativity and share the Good News of Christ’s coming with the whole world.
~See you in church, Tami