Re-imagining Nativity

This reflection was first published in The Wesley Journal,Volume 67, Issue 2.

The miraculous event of the incarnation, which is celebrated each year at Christmas, pierces through the darkness of the world with the radiance of its truth.  It would do followers of Jesus Christ well to imagine the nativity scene unfolding before us and watch for ourselves the fullest revelation of what it means to be human and divine become embodied again through the birth of Christ.  The nativity should not be regarded merely as some distant, historical moment, nor should it be reduced in a seasonal way to something that is put on display as “authentic” Christmas décor.  Instead, the nativity can and should come alive in our hearts and minds each time we reimagine it on any day of the year.  This is vitally important; the incarnation matters for Christian witness and discipleship.  Followers of Christ must take the incarnation seriously for the living of these days.

The words from the Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night,” offer moral insight into the incarnation: “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace.  Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease!”  Christ in all his saving glory came to fill the world with an everlasting light so vibrant that even the deepest darkness cannot overcome.  As we make our journey through the liturgical season of Advent, the daylight grows shorter by the minute because the sun sets earlier each day.  Meanwhile, the powers and principalities continue to thrive off the proliferation of ubiquitous evil.  In the midst of all the horrors, despairs, and setbacks we must endure, the distance from the nativity can feel discouraging as we deeply yearn for Christ to come again and make all things new.  However, we are not called to idly stand by and wait for Christ’s return.  God’s righteousness and justice cannot delay.  We are called to act now and transform the world for the greater glory of God, by grace through faith.  Christ calls us to a new and different way of being in the world today, not tomorrow.

The God who loves humanity so deeply that God became enfleshed in order to enter into solidarity with human experience and suffering for the salvation of the world also teaches us how to be human in the most human way.  We need only look to Christ for illumination.  I dream of a day when every human is humane like Christ.

The incarnation invites us to become our fullest selves, in the way that God intended for creation from the very moment when God began to create out of love, for love, with love, and in love.  If we do anything this Christmas, I pray it is we recommit ourselves to being the most humane we can with one another.  If we need light to fill the darkness and hope for the journey when weary times set in, let us revisit the nativity scene in our imaginations.  Only then when the truth of the incarnation comes alive for us in our hearts and minds will Charles Wesley’s words ring true: “Come, thou long-expected Jesus!  Born to set thy people free.  From our fears and sins, release us.  Let us find our rest in Thee.”

+ CMJ

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