The Nativity. One of the most beautiful moments in history. One that we celebrate every year. The baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling cloths, laid in a manger in a stable. Angels sing “Alleluia, Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace and goodwill to men.”
As a child, the wonderment of Christmas was doubled by our family time, honoring my father, whose birthday was on Christmas eve. We would decorate the tree after dinner (I was the only kid on the block whose Christmas tree only had lights on it for two weeks before Christmas), and only after the birthday celebration was complete. But we had wonderful memories of those Christmas eve celebrations, followed by midnight Mass. When I got older, I played trumpet with the brass choir at my church and was able to be a part of the declaratory process.
And always the Crèche, with the Nativity scene set up prominently in front of our Christmas tree in the center of our living room. Hand made ceramic figurines of the entire cast, the holy family, shepherds, wise men, camels, cows, in a wooden stable.
Many years later, my father cast a beautiful Nativity scene in silver, and mounted the figures on a piece of driftwood, displayed on my parent’s mantle over the fireplace, and eventually becoming a year-round fixture.
So a few years ago, when I was asked to participate in a “Living Nativity” at the Califon Methodist Church, I was excited to be able to sing and pray together with their congregation, dressed as a shepherd (a rather unusual cloak which makes me appear as something between a Peruvian gaucho and Joseph in his technicolor dream coat). But the excitement of singing “Mary, Did You Know” was replaced quickly with a quiet state of grace provided by the enactment taking place in the church, which included animals (sheep, a donkey, and even an alpaca – maybe not authentic, but part of our local fauna), angels (adults and children in white robes with halos), the wise men, Mary, Joseph, and when possible, a newborn child of a member of the congregation to represent our infant Savior.
Over the past five years, I’ve grown to consider this annual event as a real focus moment of my Advent season. This year, I think I was most touched by the children’s role with a precious rendition of two songs, one of them with dancing and signing (that is not a misspelling, they signed the song as they sing-ed it)’ the other with accompaniment of bell choir (the kids played beautifully on color-coded bells). I was able to share two more of my favorite songs, one called “Joseph’s Song”, a touching perspective on Joseph’s charge to be the father of the Son of God. The other, my all-time favorite, a song called “Pretty Good Night” is to me, the summation of why Jesus came to earth. (I shared this in a previous post – a Pretty Good Night). He came for the sinner, the broken, the empty, all to offer us salvation and a place in eternity with our Father.
I’ve rambled and reminisced…
The Nativity of my youth, and now the Living Nativity. Two interpretations here. I see the word “living” more as a verb, and consequently, a challenge. We should all be “living” the Nativity, preparing always for the coming of Jesus, because He IS coming. We should take on our Marian role to accept God’s perfect plan for our lives, and be for Him as she was, a handmaiden of the Lord. We should be living out our Joseph role in our stewardship of our own children, to raise them in the Light of Christ, knowing that they are God’s children in our care for such a short time here on earth. We should live like the Magi, always seeking the Star of Bethlehem, the Bright and Morningstar (Rev.22:16).
Seek Him, live for Him, raise our children for Him. Share Him in the workplace, at school, in town. Every day, every moment. Celebrate the season, and live the Nativity…