Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1
As I read through the nativity stories this year I discovered a deeper connection to the texts. I noticed how Brother Matthew told the narrative story in his Gospel from Father Joseph’s point of view while Brother Luke told the stories through the eyes of Mother Mary. And Brother John spoke of the nativity as the Incarnation – the God-Man Jesus – come down from heaven filled with life, light, truth, and grace. I found myself listening to the text as if for the very first time – a fresh encounter of God with me – Emmanuel.
As I ponder the stories like Mother Mary who held all things in her heart I noticed how distorted the ornaments on our Christmas tree were. If the tree of Christmas was to remind me of the sacred birth of the Christ Jesus, then why did it look so much like the world with snowmen and random expressions of our secular holiday experiences. I began to wonder as I pondered the texts what ornaments I might create if I were to remember the story of the nativity more accurately instead of the fictional experience we have acquired from our culture. If I were skilled in the craft, these are the ornaments I would create to aid in a more accurate remembrance of the story. The ornaments I picture in my imagination are globe shaped with scenes across the expanse some two or three on each sphere and perhaps with each scene I would include a reference to a sacred text.
- Governmental Figures – Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, King Herod
- Genealogy & family tree (Luke & Matthew)
- Zechariah & the Angel, Mary & the Angel, Joseph & the Angel, Shepherds & Angel/angels
- Zechariah & Elizabeth with Baby John, John the Baptist baptizing
- Mary & Elizabeth holding hands with a hand on their pregnant bellies w/ holy light streaming, Mary Singing
- Joseph & Mary betrothal, the marriage
- Joseph the dreamer/visionary
- The census & the inn keeper/manger
- Mary & Joseph with Baby Jesus, Jesus on the Cross
- Shepherds at Baby Jesus’ manger with Mary & Joseph
- Zechariah & Elizabeth (naming Baby John), Zechariah’s Song
- Mary & Jesus in the Temple at 8 days old (naming of Baby Jesus), the prophets Anna & Simeon with the holy family
- Three Kings coming from the east, Kings talking with Herod
- Kings kneeling at 2 year old Jesus’ feet, Joseph & Mary with Jesus leaving for Egypt on the King’s Hwy.
- Mary Joseph & Jesus return to Nazareth from Egypt
- Star – three stars merge together as one, a comet in the night sky
- Audience – the children of the world “those who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1.12
At Christmas we celebrate that God became man and dwelt among us and his name was Jesus. As I celebrated the coming of the Christ I thought to of my own birth experiences and how important the naming of our children were to us. Across the sacred texts are many places were the Messiah was named and renamed, yet, in the encounter with the Angel Gabriel Mary’s baby was given a common everyday name – Jesus, a name as old as salvation history. Father Joseph experienced the naming of this child from the encounter of the night vision, a dream of the angel of the Lord appearing to him and speaking the name of this child – Jesus. Brother John tells us that “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1.12-13).
I sit here Christmas Night listening to the meaning-filled instrumental music of Christmas songs that ponder the nativity – stories about Jesus. I’m sipping a tasty cup of Christmas coffee and tears are near to the surface as I ponder in my heart how so many of us celebrate this holiday but never get past the ancient stories and fall into the temptation of secular ideals of gift-giving, partying, and songfests. I suppose many of us in the Western world struggle with our wealth, and debt.
At the outlying edge of the nativity story is the journey of the of the three wisemen (the three kings) and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as an act of homage – a public declaration of allegiance to this new king proclaimed in the night sky. They came to show their allegiance to the one they believed was a king of all kings. The wisemen go first to see if there is an heir born in the palace, inquiring, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2.2). But surely their gifts were but a reflection of the heart-warming allegiance to God reflected in their lengthy travels across the desert lands.
I love to ponder the heart-warming response of the wisemen as they were overjoyed at the sign of the star and they bowed low to worship the young boy Jesus. It seems we show our allegiance to our family and friends much more readily than to the God who created us. We often offer only a token experience of worship at the local church. I wonder what would happen in our hearts and lives if we bowed low this Christmastide remembering to give homage to our Creator God who is our Redeemer and King.
I invite you to ponder with me. To whom or to what are you and I giving homage? Let us bow low before God our Creator.