Is Your Nativity Flawed?

As a reminder to our family and guests that Jesus’ birth claims center stage at Christmas, my wife loves to display nativity scenes. Last year, she purchased a new one. My son, 7 years old at the time, made a keen observation about it. Take a moment and look closely. Do you see what’s wrong with it?

Now of course, I’m sure a few of you will notice that the Wise Men are there at Jesus’ birth. They likely didn’t arrive to worship Jesus until he was two or three years old. Their presence in many nativities squeezes Matthew’s and Luke’s account of Jesus birth into one image. While I disagree with the creative license, I can understand it. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Look closely. Do you see it yet?

Jesus isn’t lighted!

While I’m sure the nativity scene was designed that way (creative license again), the absence of light from the Light of the World misses so much theologically. When my son first saw it, that’s the first thing he said, “Of all the characters, Jesus needs a light!”

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

At the signal of a star light over 2,000 years ago a baby came into this world to bring light—to be Light! At the announcement by the angels, a shimmering and foreshadowing light knocked back shepherds preparing the way for the greater Light born that day. On a mountain three decades later, Peter, James, and John would witness the unhindered glory of the Light on the Mount of Transfiguration. Not long after, the Light would appear momentarily to have been snuffed out in the crushing darkness on another mount—this one called Calvary, the place of the skull. But only three days following the Light would arise with the Sunday morning glory of resurrection, never to be faded, overshadowed, or darkened again.

But Jesus isn’t the only one to bear this light. That faulty nativity gets this part right. The other figures glow in worship to him and announcement to others. Jesus himself tells his followers,

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

As his light-bearers, we’ve been entrusted to brighten the darkness around us with effervescent worship and illuminating witness. We are responsible to take his brilliance, wonder, and awe exposing it to dark places in the light he’s placed in us.

In truth, this is a far more important nativity to have right. A plaster decoration that sits on our hall table isn’t likely to fail in its witness. As a light-bearer, I am to take his gospel to those lost and floundering in darkness. As a light-bearer, I am to worship joyously so that others, in the light of my changed life, can see the Light of the world clearly. As a light-bearer, I am to keep all dimmers, faders, and dark corners from weakening the brilliance and brightness of the true Light born at Christmas.

Check your decorative nativities. Are they flawed? Does Jesus have center stage? Is he illuminated? Then check your nativity and be sure the Light has brightened you, and you are taking that light into the darkness.

De-Scrooged

Scrooge. That old, selfish, stingy hoarder. In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the miserly man kept everything to himself to the point of pushing everyone away until a series of ghostly encounters ripped his false security from him. He changed. He gave. And quite magically, everyone wanted to be around him. The taker became a giver. The hoarder released his vice grip. Scrooge got de-Scrooged.

I don’t like to admit it, but I can be a lot like Scrooge, setting my peace on what I have rather than what I give. Enter my six year old son Joseph. He just had a birthday and racked up. Kind friends and family gave him lots of toys and lots of cash. A couple weeks after his birthday, the piggy bank sat at $103.00.

As we entered the Christmas season, our family decided to give gifts to some children who have less than most through a local ministry. Joseph told us after we had already purchased everything for two children that he sensed God wanted us to get gifts for one more child. His mom, Diana, and I talked with him that day about him investing some of his birthday money toward this other child. He recoiled. We left it alone. Three days later, he again said we should provide Christmas for another child. We asked him, a second time, to think about putting some of his money towards it (Now, I was thinking $10 or at most $15). We were hoping he would want to have some of his own “skin in the game” so to speak. As we talked it over this second time, he began to think and pray about what to give. I can still see his face as his eyes got big and a little frightened. He looked at us and said, “I think God’s saying for me to keep just $1.” Diana and I looked at each other instantly smiling, crying a bit, and rejoicing inside at what he had said. Frankly, it sounded like something God would say. Seconds later, he began backtracking. He started arguing, and we weren’t even saying anything! We wanted him to wrestle through this on his own. As we neared bedtime, he had retracted his offer of everything but a dollar. We encouraged him to sleep and pray on it.

The next morning, he got up and was readying himself for school. We asked him again what he felt like he was supposed to do. He dropped his head again and whispered, “God wants everything but a dollar.” $102.00 of $103.00! That morning I saw what sacrificial giving looks like on the face of a six year old. I also saw what it looks like to be de-Scrooged. The fix for taking is giving. The fix for hoarding is letting go. The way to de-Scrooge yourself is to do what Scrooge wouldn’t till it was from frightened from him. Give! Give generously! Give sacrificially!

My wife and I are so proud of our son’s sensitivity to obey God and give so generously. We haven’t stopped bragging on him and to him. As I have looked at my son and back at myself since his generosity, Scrooge’s hold on my own resources became much easier to see. So you know what I did? I went to the checkbook prying that old miser’s grip on my own money. Do you know, it sure did feel good in that moment to be de-Scrooged! And I have a little generous giver by the name of Joseph to thank.