When I was young, my family had two nativity sets. And after Thanksgiving, both would appear somewhere in our house. One was made out of olive wood. Hand-carved camels and wise men, Mary kneeling, baby Jesus in the manger. My grandmother brought that one back from Israel, but it wasn’t delicate. It was solid and durable. So, my sister and I could touch it, play with it a bit, move it around and put into any sort of arrangement we’d like: Joseph and the wise men hanging out near the sheep, Mary and baby Jesus near the angel or the donkey.
And then there was the other nativity scene—the breakable one. It was made out of red clay from Mexico, I think. And we weren’t allowed to touch that one. My mom always placed it a bit further away from curious hands—on higher surfaces. So, it was harder to get a look at Jesus in that one. But I did. And if I’m honest, he was not much to look at: a polished and smooth egg-shaped figure of a baby in a bowl-like manger. He was strange and mysterious. Fragile. And forbidden.
I like the questions Holy Spirit asked us—how we’re invited to think more carefully, more rigorously, about our thoughts about Jesus. About how close a relationship we have with Him. About how comfortable we are with Him. Because this time of Advent is all about slowing a bit, a few times during December, to consider Him and to prepare our hearts to celebrate Him.
But Advent will always feel shallow and flat–or deep and meaningful–depending on our perceptions of Jesus.
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