(The following is the reflection I put in the local paper for the special Christmas section.)
I set up my nativity scene on Saturday. Well, “set up” might be pushing it. I try to be somewhat accurate when I put it out. Baby Jesus gets put in a drawer until Christmas Eve. The wise men are placed somewhere at a distance and will be brought into the scene on Epiphany. Mary, Joseph, and the donkey have a distance to travel as well and will probably arrive the Sunday before Christmas. The shepherds are in the field watching their sheep totally unaware that come Christmas Eve, just before we go to bed, they will make the journey to the stable. I look at my nativity scene. It seems pretty bare with only one little ox lying on the base.
Sometimes our world can seem like that. We read the newspaper and watch the television and we wonder if there is hope for our world. We rush around preparing for Christmas and sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of the crowds we can feel pretty lonely. We look at what has to be done for Christmas Day and wonder if we will ever be ready.
Yet, on December 24, as we gather as community and sing our songs, share our meal, and remember about the special birth, there is a feeling of expectation and hope. In the quietness of the night, as we sing Silent Night by candlelight, we are aware of something momentous happening.
Those of us who have held new born babies may understand the feeling. As we gaze into the eyes of the tiny infant, time seems to stand still. Regardless of all that has gone before, regardless of how tomorrow will turn out, for that one instance the world, the future is full of promise and possibilities. We gaze into the infant’s face and our hearts open up in prayer, yearning for all that is good for this child. We pray that he/she may grow up in a world free of strife and full of hope and good things.
Each Christmas Eve, as we join our families in singing in the soft light of the candles in the darkness, we look to a world full of promise and possibilities. For this brief instance in time we understand what it is that God desires for God’s creation. We open our hearts and our minds to the timeless memory of God’s vision brought into our world in the birth of the tiny baby two thousands years ago. It was an event that began a life that transformed the lives of many, bringing to reality the promise and possibility of which most births offer a glimpse. In that moment, past and future come together in the present and we celebrate life.
Come Christmas morning, my one lonely little ox will be in the midst of a busy scene with Mary, Joseph, a donkey, some sheep and a shepherd, and a tiny baby. His lonely and bleak world will be transformed into one of extended family and celebration. Sometime, in the dark hours of the cold and lonely night something wonderful has happened and the future begins anew with promise and possibility.
Love and Prayers,
Wishing you and your loved ones a joyous Christmas and a New Year bright with hope and promise,