Have you set up a nativity scene in your home or in your church? For many of us, a nativity scene or crèche is a special part of our Christmas celebrations. Some people like to set them up slowly, with the different characters in the birth narrative arriving at appropriate times throughout the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. First the animals, then Mary and Joseph who find a warm place to stay the night in the stable. Jesus is next, followed by an angel to announce the birth and the shepherds who come to visit the newborn child. Finally, after a bit of a wait, the Magi arrive with their gifts and their worship.
Recently, my husband and I were browsing at a sale of ornaments and religious items from the Holy Land. He picked up a little wooden sculpture of a camel and he asked, “Would you like a camel for your nativity scene?” My quick reply was that the camel didn’t match my set. It would appear out of proportion to my other animal figures, and it was quite a different artistic design. I didn’t want to ruin the scene by adding any old character.
Later, I came across a quote from Pope Francis reflecting on the crèche of Christmas: “Children—but adults too!—often love to add to the nativity scene other figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. Yet, each in its own way, these fanciful additions show that in the new world inaugurated by Jesus there is room for whatever is truly human and for all God’s creatures.”
It makes me want to go back and buy that camel figure. But it also prompts me to consider whether I have excluded others from the circle of worship that gathers around Jesus because I thought that, for whatever reason, that person did not belong in the community of faith. Christmas can remind us that Christ came first to the poor, the outsiders, and even the humble animals, and when they all came together around the manger, they made up a motley crew.
You and I are blessed to be part of that company that gathers to worship Jesus at Christmas, and to know that God has come to be with us in the Christ child. In the big nativity scene that God is putting together, we are there. Let’s huddle up a little closer this Christmas and make space for more of our friends, neighbours, strangers, and even enemies to get into the scene and catch a glimpse of God among us.
O children of the forest free, the kin of Manitou, the holy child of earth and heaven is born today for you. Come kneel before the radiant boy, who brings you beauty, peace and joy. Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria. (From the Huron Carol, St. Jean de Brébeuf, translation, J. Edgar Middleton)
—The Rev. Amanda Currie
Moderator of the 2019 General Assembly