Life is filled with the unexpected.
In a beautifully crafted children’s picture book “We Were There: A Nativity Story,” Eve Bunting turns Christmas upside down in unexpected ways. She brings to life a simple story about a slithering snake, then a warty toad, a scary scorpion, a shiny cockroach, a swooping bat, a hairy spider, and a furry rat all on a journey. Each creature introduces itself and then concludes with the words “I will be there.”
As the book ends we are shown more common nativity creatures: fuzzy lambs, donkeys, cows. But as the traditional figures in the stable stand around a lowly manger in which baby Jesus has been carefully laid by his mother Mary, we see in the corner, unnoticed, that small gathering of the snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat. Through word and picture, the author reminds us that the coming of the Christ is not all about the traditional and cozy trappings in which we have wrapped the Christmas story, but it is a story for all creatures as God came into flesh.
You see, we are there, too!
True, we may watch from a distance some 2,000 years later, yet at the same time, it is a story where the mystery is being revealed moment by moment. Its promise and message is as relevant and important for our world now as it was when the Word became flesh in a Bethlehem Inn. God saw the broken, sin-tainted world we created for ourselves and chose to give us His most precious gift: Jesus. This child, from heaven to earth He came, embraces the broken, the outcast, those on the fringe. He seeks to draw all people unto Himself.
This story is our story, His message becomes our mission. In every way, it is an unexpected word that gives inexplicable hope.
As we relive this story and journey once again to Bethlehem this Christmas season, we will sing the wonderful carols of the season about angels, shepherds, and a star, we will set out manger scenes in our homes that display Jesus’ birth, we will engage with worship that tells the nativity story. As we step into the familiar, I encourage you to take a moment to observe the extraordinary in the ordinary. Look beyond the manger to see yourself kneeling in the nativity at the feet of your Savior. I pray you experience the unexpected gift of Jesus, once again.
“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,
A quiet chamber set apart For You to dwell within my heart.”
(“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”, LSB358:13)
The scene is set, characters placed, and music cued … but where are you on this manger night? Take a knee, my fellow faith-traveler, our Savior has come! Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!
In CHRISTmas love,