Of all the scripture passages that resist interpretation, the infancy narratives must lead the charge. Somehow we manage to sidestep addressing why the obligatory donkey, ox and camels creep into the scene while they remain obstinately absent from the Gospels accounts. As for the number of wise ones, the place of birth and questions of whether there was any flight to Egypt, these are all swept aside as we decide where to place the drummer boy. Yet maybe there is an invitation here to embrace the beauty and simplicity of the nativity scene. Which of the characters depicts us as we prepare for Christmas?
Are you a Joseph, feeling the weight of responsibility? Perhaps you are bewildered by the way events have changed so dramatically during the year. Are you looking for security for those you serve, yet experiencing knock backs and closed doors? Have you settled for something other than what you hoped for despite good planning?
Humble donkey or ox
Do you feel like the humble donkey? Have you patiently carried the precious gift of God’s community on a long journey this year? Have you finally arrived, feeling worn out yet at the same time fulfilled, knowing that soon your efforts will be rewarded? Maybe you are a bit like the ox, and circumstances have been thrust upon you.
Artwork by artist Dona Gelsinger, www.donagelsinger.com
Suddenly your community has encountered something holy at a time and in a way you could never have anticipated. Has it been a year of asking searching questions of yourself and others? Like the wise ones, have you found yourself on a journey of discovery, searching for enlightenment? Perhaps, at times you have taken the wrong advice, as when the wise ones turned to King Herod. Are you eager to share your gifts with the Lord? The innkeeper and Herod are both notably absent from the nativity scene.
Like the innkeeper, have we needed to shut the door, overcome by the amount of need out there? Or have we shunted new initiatives into some back room, only to have them blossom without any real effort from ourselves? Have we locked Jesus away fearful of what he is calling to birth in our own heart? With King Herod, have we felt threatened by something new? Have we been guilty of stifling a fledgling dream because we perceive it may undermine our own agenda? Have we confused the truth seekers, the wise ones, giving them mixed messages out of our own insecurity?
Shepherd or angel
Are we a shepherd, transfixed with the wonder of what is happening in our midst? Do we feel unworthy of all the attention or clumsy in our efforts to serve? Or perhaps we are an angel, confidently sharing the Good News to all that we meet?
And then there is the Mary in us, patiently awaiting the birth of Christ who has already found a home in our heart. Are we eager to bring forth the Word to our needy world, despite the darkness of our surrounds, the perceived inappropriateness of the setting? Do we live in joyful expectation, quietly confident that God’s promise will be fulfilled?
Perhaps we are a little of all these characters. The star beckons, what will we find on our arrival?
Author Fr John Frauenfelder - Originally published in the Broken Bay Institute eNewsletter December, 2015