“O Come All Ye Faithful & Broken….”
Of all the things tucked away in multiple boxes of Christmas decorations at my house, there is one thing most precious of all. Each year as I prepare to “deck my halls” for this blessed season, I come to the old battered shoe box that shelters a nativity set made for me by my Grandma over 35 years ago.
Out comes each delicate piece from its careful tissue wrapping, painted carefully by Grandma (now 99 years old) in bright and beautiful color: the sheep and cow and shepherd, the Wise Ones & their camels, Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus lying in a straw-lined manger. There’s a barn-like structure, smaller than all the characters it’s meant to host. And there’s an angel, too, with wide wings and a prayerful pose.
Over the years, as this set has been packed and moved from place to place on my life’s journey, it has suffered some wear and tear. Mary’s donkey now lacks one ear. One of the three camels inexplicably disappeared. The angel’s impressive wing has sadly been clipped. And now only one lonely shepherd kneels in homage to the baby Jesus.
For all its imperfections, I love this set even more, for what could more honestly capture the stark truth of that holy night and of our honoring of it ever since?
While our carefully planned worship and candle-lit sanctuaries offer an illusion of a flawless event bathed in awesome wonder, the reality had to have been quite different. Jesus was born into a world where domineering, brutal rulers oppressed and marginalized the people. The holy family itself was turned away that night and offered little welcome. And those who received those first glad tidings in the fields or traveled long distance to see the One foretold, must have arrived exhausted and smelly and confused.
This was no perfect, idyllic event and circumstance; this was rugged, real life into which Jesus was born. And that is also the world which receives the Christ Child today. We who gather to worship and sing our carols bring our own brokenness to the season, our own frayed edges from hard, fraught journeys. We celebrate the birth of One who came to liberate and heal and love while our own world is still steeped in hatred and injustice. We welcome the Prince of Peace when there is yet so much violence and unrest all around us.
We are an imperfect people in a deeply flawed world. It has always been so. Yet we still come to the manger as people throughout the generations have always come: faithfully, expectantly, and with hearts full of hope for a world full of hurt.
O come all ye faithful , and worship the One who was born to make all things new and to mend what is broken within us and around us.
Advent blessings to you and to yours,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister