Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflection on the Christmas Crèche

This picture was on an e-card our daughter Joanna and husband Chad from Rochester, NY, sent us last year. 
Their son John Mark is admiring the candle-lit crèche they set up for the season.

Years ago I read an article in the Valley LIVING magazine by Eddy Hall entitled “A Second Look at the Christmas Crèche.”  He used to be bothered by all of the historical inaccuracies portrayed in the typical Christmas manger scene, he said, the ones that have Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus surrounded by the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, along with assorted sheep, camels and donkeys, all gathered at the stable at the same time.
     If you pay attention to the texts, of course, the angels return to heaven immediately after announcing the birth of the Messiah, and the wise men in Matthew’s account are led by a star to a house where they bring Mary and Joseph their gifts, not to a manger, suggesting this was some time after the stable birth.
     “I’ve long assumed that it was just pure sloppiness,” Hall writes, “Caught up in the less than accurate traditions that surround Christmas, people just didn’t care how the story really happened.”
     But Hall has come to believe the Christmas crèche is meant to convey something deeper, that the main focus of this manger scene is to show how this promised Child brings us all together, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, insider and outsider, shepherds and scholars, not because of any appeal they have for each other, but because of their common reverence for Immanuel, God with us.
     This, he says, is the real Christmas story in a nutshell.
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