A place by the manger
One of my favorite Christmas decorations is the nativity scene. I love them all. Ornate ones, simple ones. Even the ones that look like Peanuts characters. They are all different, but one thing that remains the same in them all: the stable is wide open. There are no doors on the stable. No one has to peek through windows to see what is going on. Everyone is welcome in the stable.
Everyone came too. The shepherds were there. Shepherds, in general, were outcasts. They weren’t welcome in a lot of places. The shepherds at the nativity drew the overnight shift. Even among shepherds, they were outcasts. Still, no one barred them from coming to the stable to find the babe wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. They belonged. The angel chorus invited them.
The wise men are always in the nativity scenes. This may be a bit of an anachronism. Most likely they didn’t make it to Bethlehem that first Christmas Day. Perhaps, they didn’t arrive for another year or two. I like including them in the nativity scene, though. They remind me that the stable had no guards that turned away people who were different. The wise men came from a foreign country. They worshiped a different god. They dressed differently. They spoke another language. No one stopped them from entering the stable, though. They belonged. Their invitation was in the stars.
Then there were the angels, singing in celebration of the birth of Jesus. They remind us that the baby in the manger was unlike any other baby born before or since. The baby Jesus was heaven on earth. The angels remind us why everyone was there. They weren’t there seeking validation or justification. They were there to seek the baby. When they found him, they knew he was worthy of worship. The angels remind us that the baby in the manger was (and is) worthy of our worship and our surrender. Everyone comes to the baby as they are. No one leaves the same. Worshiping and surrendering to Jesus changes us.
Everyone has a nativity scene somewhere in the house. No doubt, yours is special to you. Next time you look at it, take note there are no doors on the stable where Jesus is lying. There are no guards at the manger to turn people away. Everyone is welcome. There may be people you have a hard time imagining being at the stable. They may be from a different country or religion, or maybe you just don’t get along with them. The open stable reminds us that they belong.
It might be hard for you to imagine yourself at the stable. We know our own shortcomings and flaws well enough to know that we don’t belong at the stable. The open stable means the same for us as it does for anyone else. We all belong at the manger.
Like the shepherds and the wise men, we come seeking something we don’t fully understand. We find Someone worthy of worship. You have a place around the manger.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Steve Salmon of First Church of Christ,