At this time of year, you can find nativity scenes in pictures, as figurines with a stable, in Christmas cards, and even in live scenes put on by churches, complete with animals. Though Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus are always the main focus, these nativity scenes (or “manger scenes”) can be quite elaborate and include shepherds, angels, oxen, donkeys, sheep, stable animals, and even the Magi (who, prior to Epiphany, are often placed a little farther away to depict them as still being “en route” to the Holy Family).
Depicting the Nativity of our Lord Jesus was traditionally used as a teaching tool and is meant to honor and observe the birth of the Christ. It reinforces the joyful witness of the angels, the faithful witness of the shepherds, and even the loyal witness/devotion of the animal creatures to their Creator.
The gospel witness tells us that the angels appeared in a spectacular display of praise as they announced the holy birth and sent the shepherds to go and see. So the shepherds “went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.”
But, have you ever considered or pictured yourself to be one of the figures in the nativity scene? Have you ever considered that the invitation of the angels to the shepherds is our invitation, too? After all, we also are part of that great cloud of witnesses, though still on earth, that have been recipients of the grace shown to us through the birth of Jesus.
A popular Christmas carol invites us to join the angels, shepherds, sages, and all creation and “Come and worship…worship Christ the newborn king”(ELW 275).
The Christmas gospel also tells us: “they made known what had been told them about this child.”
Let us join the shepherds, the great cloud of witnesses in heaven, the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven in being witnesses and proclaimers of this glorious event: the birth of the Messiah, the incarnation of our God, for us and our salvation.
And, like the angels and the shepherds, let us not only rejoice at this wondrous Gift which has been given to us, let us make it known to others so that they may share in this Joy as well.
Blessings and joy to you this Christmas and in the coming New Year. See how God loves you: God gives you Jesus, the greatest Gift of all!
+ Bishop Wilma Kucharek