Jesus in the center.
I was carefully setting up this year’s Nativity display on the wooden shelf by the fireplace. I meticulously turned individual pieces in incremental degrees until each one faced Baby Jesus in a stance that reflected wonder and adoration.
With a sense of satisfaction, I stepped back to view the final arrangement.
I sort of chuckled at myself, knowing full well that Biblical timelines do not place Jesus’ birth, first shepherds, and traveling kings all arriving in Bethlehem at the same time. Still, I love creating a niche every year that displays that time-condensed version of the events as described.
Unexpectedly, I felt like the Spirit whispered, That’s not what it looks like today. After that statement, a clear image flashed into my mind. In that image, each of my Nativity pieces had been switched around and now stood in a completely different configuration.
Instead of all attention focused towards Jesus, I saw Joseph, Mary, all three kings and even the shepherd, all facing one another in a circle of earnest conversation. Their circle was closed and turned away from the Messiah. He and the manger had been positioned at the opposite end of the shelf…alone, except for the company of a glass donkey and lamb.
The redesigned arrangement was thought-provoking.
I mused regarding the role each character might represent in today’s world: the three kings would still represent leaders of nations, countries, and their respective political systems. Joseph – perhaps a representation of men stepping forward to mentor, to “father” others, to model godly masculinity and leadership to the next generation; Mary — carrying the concerns, responsibilities and unique callings of women? And the shepherd – would he represent a segment of the less fortunate in this world, or those who dedicate themselves to finding and winning lost hearts back to God?
In this Nativity’s switched layout, the people and those they stood for were not seeking wisdom or guidance from the Miracle Worker, the King of Kings who has government “rest on His shoulders,” the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6) though He was very near to all of them.
Instead, they talk-talk-talked only amongst themselves, solidifying their own worldview in which each was a captive, both a victim and perpetrator of the worldly system’s injustices.
But God is never static and never distant. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8) One of my favorite Old Testament verses is Habakkuk 1:5 – “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! For I am doing something in your days – you would not believe it even if you were told!”
God is always “doing something” in whatever days we find ourselves.
Good days. Bad days. Days we anticipate with joy and even those days we face with dread and prayer. A “perfect Nativity” in this life has yet to be fully implemented or fully manifested in any area of our earthly walk, our sojourner’s path through both the marvelous and the horrific.
“The reason the Son of God was revealed was to undo and destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8, The Passion Translation)
God is never without purpose.
The essence of “The Christmas Story” is not diminished even towards those nations whose cultures and calendars forbid its acknowledgement or celebration. God is always seeking His lost sheep, His captured children held deep inside satanic fortresses. As the grace of the Holy Spirit is poured out on those who seek it, so it is also poured out on those who are standing with their backs turned away from Him.
There is a resounding “Glory to God in the highest” that is constantly shed abroad, a sharing to step into the announcement “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”