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.

TYPESTRY

binding the ideas of typed words and the beauty of a tapestry.

That’s my attempt at cleverness. You may not find it inventive. You may find it annoying, or corny, or poor use of the English language. That’s OK.  Even if you aren’t found of my mad word creation skills, I do want to explain why I have chosen this title.

Typestry represents two images: the written word and woven art. The Bible is God’s revealed message in words to us. Have you stopped to think that God has told us everything he wants us to know about him in the words of the Bible? Language is his gift.  Words are his tools.  They do his bidding.   And in the written pages of the Scriptures, he tells us what he is able to do by the power of his words.  He created the world by simply speaking: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  He divides language (see Genesis 11:1-9) and binds them back together (Acts 2:3-13). He rebuked, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39), and wind ceased and waves stopped.  He commanded, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (Mark 2:11), and weak, lame legs instantly strengthened and straightened, obeying their creator.  His words surge with great power!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than
any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of
soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and
discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

When I consider the other image, I am taken back to a visit to the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina.  In the Tapestry Gallery of that grand estate hang magnificent 16th century tapestries, “The Triumph of the Seven Virtues.”  These tapestries tell the tale of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) along with the four cardinal virtues (temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude) through various allegories taken from the Bible and other sources. As I pondered those intricately designed works of art, I found myself mesmerized by the woven story they told.  You might think of these displays as “Pre-computer PowerPoint for the Extremely Rich and Famous,” or “The Original Flannel Graph for Kings and Princes.”  The designers of those beautiful displays saw a finished work in their mind’s eye, from beginning to end, and set about to tell history and truth through the weaving of mere fabric.  As I contemplate the parallels between those majestic displays of woven artwork and God’s moment-by-moment life weaving process in the lives of his children, my mind races to Romans 8:28.

And we know that for those who love God
all things work together for good, for those
who are called according to his purpose.

The Language Giver is also the Grand Weaver (to borrow from Ravi Zacharias).  He can take your worst moments and your best, your ups and your downs, your twists and your turns,  weave them into a beautiful tapestry and call it your life.  For those of us who follow him, he takes his Word and weaves it into, around, and through our everyday experiences to make us into a beautiful work of art, similar to those 16th century tapestries, but so much more valuable.  As a pastor, professor, and writer, everything in my life revolves around studying, meditating, applying, and communicating the words of the Word.  As my life meets that book, God intertwines his words with my life turning who I am into a typestry for his glory.

Typestry. Language and life.  The words and the walk. I like it. What about you?