Just before I put away our nativity scene (our creche or manger scene, if you like) this year, I paused for a moment to take it all in, one last time. We might put the figures away and box up the stable, but I like to think the characters continue on with us.
What adventures are ahead? I don’t really know, but I feel better knowing that we can go together. If not in person, then in story and in heart, in imagination and awareness. I think that’s comforting. And inspiring.
We have further stories of Jesus to guide us, but what about the shepherds and the magi? The shepherds may well have returned to the comfort of their flocks and fields, but the magi, fearful of Herod, it says, “returned home by another road.” Wherever they went, I’m sure they took with them the experience of meeting Jesus and all it meant. For the shepherds, hoping for a messiah, it meant a promise kept and hope realized. For the magi, following a sign in the sky, it meant a prophecy fulfilled. For all of us, it means that same love they found can be found in every journey.
That’s ahead. Before we put it away again until next year, it might also be useful to consider how everyone in the nativity scene got here, arriving at the tableau it represents.
I like to think of the angel as the stage manager in this production directed by God. The angel instigates and moves the action on, but the characters live it.
Mary and Joseph arrived here both by the grace of God and the command of the oppressive occupiers of their country. That night was the intersection of the divine and the earthly powers.
I think of any animals that might have been on hand as innocent bystanders, unintentional witnesses of a new life in the world. But then, animals are much more in tune with creation around them, so who’s to say that they didn’t instinctively know that the creator was coming there?
The shepherds were on hand because they were told to be. As much as they might have been waiting in hope for the coming of the messiah, the good news was proclaimed to them and they followed directions to find Jesus. That’s part of their story, they then went and told everyone “what had been told them about this child” and they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Everything they had seen and heard brought them to Jesus.
But the magi are a different story entirely. They were seekers. They were from a different culture, different religion, different world entirely, but they followed a sign, the star, which they interpreted to mean a prophecy was fulfilled. They didn’t know where they were going and I don’t think they really knew what they would find until they found it. And somehow they knew it was just the right thing.
However they came, from wherever they came, they all met Jesus and found just what they were looking for: love, unconditional, innocent and new, just like a child. We all know God our own way, we come to God our own way and we are all loved by God, just as we are, whoever we are, however we are, wherever we come from. And we can love, just as we are. A child will show us how.