[bl]C[/bl]hristmas Eve is full of anticipation. The eagerness for morning to come. The curiosity of what will be under the tree. The wondering of how the babe in swaddling will change the coming year. We wait. We can’t sleep. We hope.
I wonder how Mary felt in the final moments of her laboring. She was giving birth to a Savior! What does that feel like? Surely the anticipation was too great. The curiosity unbearable. The wonderment so intense. It’s easy to forget the human emotions and reactions that must have been present in this divine moment intentionally entangled in humanity. Flesh and spirit — the reality of the Christ, the reality of redeemed man.
Saturday we’ll be gathering with friends and family to fellowship and anticipate together the last moments before Christmas. We will eat, we will sing, we will share, we will pray. I’ve taken my Advent thoughts and wrote a Christmas reading. As a living nativity, our children will share the Christmas story that leads the way for us to receive our King.
I thought I’d share the nativity reading with you just in case you are looking for something to read during your gathering as well. It’s one of those be awkward moments that will surely be a blessing.
The reading can be shared by adults and/or children. We are hoping for our children to become a living nativity with very simple costumes – more like symbolic emblems – indicating who they are. For example, the child reading about Mary might have a cloth draped over her head. And the wise man might wear a crown. And we just so happen to have a little bitty baby in our family that can play Jesus, but of course a baby doll will be close by as the under study.
However, if adults are the ones reading or you don’t want to bother with figuring out simple costumes, you could simply build a nativity on your mantel or table. As each person reads their part, they place the nativity piece that corresponds.
Reader 1 (places baby Jesus on the mantel)
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The moment in God’s redemptive story when he enters the world. Enters into the brokenness of man to bring about wholeness and restoration.
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
How do we welcome and celebrate such a birth as this?
The nativity story tells of the first moments when this world welcomed the baby that would live and die as the Christ. These people and places authored by God teach us how to celebrate Christmas.
Reader 2 (places the angel and Mary on the mantel)
Mary became a womb for holy life to grow. The kind of life that gives life to others.
The angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Mary made herself available to God and his redemptive plan in and through her. “I am the Lord’s servant,” She answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Like Mary, we can become a womb – a safe place. We can be a person, a family and a home that stretches and expands for God’s life to grow. And when this life is born in us, we are to give it to others.
Reader 3 (places Joseph on the mantel)
Joseph also welcomed baby Jesus. He entered a covenant that went against the expectations of his time and place. He married a woman with child, and became a father to a boy that was not his own. Together, Mary and Joseph lived rebellious to culture, and faithful to God. And in their journey of faith, they traveled. Pregnant with life, they journeyed to the place God set before them: Bethlehem.
Like Joseph, we can live different to this place and time, obedient to the plans God lays before us. Even when it seems irresponsible. Even when it’s embarrassing, or shameful among society. When we are faithful to God, we welcome his miracles to conceive in us.
And like this husband and wife, we can welcome Jesus with our feet. With the life God has given us, we can journey to the places he intends. Our availability invites his new and perfect ways into our life. We need only to be willing. He will make us able, even when it’s laborsome.
Reader 4 (places straw on the mantel)
Now let us consider in this divine story how the Inn keeper made room. He received the laboring Mary, and provided a place for God to birth new life. And the stable he provided, it held the moment and received the Christ with humility.
We also can welcome the Christ by making room. In our hearts and home, we can make room for Jesus to be born. This is us opening ourselves to a savior. Us being willing to receive life. Us finding room in our already full lives for new life — God’s life. And like the stable, we can be a humble environment for God’s life to birth in and through us. A simple place, genuine in character for God to make himself known. And when he does, we can embrace this life, wrapping ourselves around it like swaddling cloth. Protecting and holding the valuable grace given to us.
Reader 5 (places the animals on the mantel)
Even the animals welcomed this baby with their witness. We can do the same. When God’s life is born in others, we can be a created presence that welcomes new life. And in our witness, let us testify of God’s glory and goodness, so others may hear and know.
Reader 6 (places the tree with the star on the mantel)
Creation can’t help but participate in the welcoming of its Creator. The star, it shined bright and pointed others to Jesus, showing them The Way. Oh to be like the star! To shine and point people to this life that will change theirs. May our life, and the light we reflect, be a guide for others to find the Christ.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Reader 7 (places the three wise men on the mantel)
The Magi, who followed this star, they welcomed the child with offerings. Like these wise men who searched for Jesus, we can make offerings to him when we find him. Offerings of confession and thanksgiving and praise. Offerings that invite him into our presence so he can make us new.
These images — the swelling Mary, the faithful husband, the humble stable — they come into focus and we’re able to see how this story that we’ve heard our whole life leads the way for us. This is how we welcome the birth of Jesus — this Christmas.…And all the days that follow.
For the very first Christmas was Jesus being born unto the world. And every Christmas after, is Jesus being born in us.
On this Christmas Eve, we celebrate the birth of Christ – not only in a manger, but in hearts and homes. Jesus being born into our sin. Jesus, being born into our brokenness. Jesus being born into our relationships. Jesus being born into the work of our hands, the words of our mouth.
This is no ordinary birth. It’s not the kind that mark’s first breath. It’s the kind that brings forth new life.
This is Christmas: Welcoming God into your broken world so he can make you new.
Blessings as you welcome Christmas and all he brings!