“He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
It’s hard to make it through Advent without seeing the nativity scene in one of its many variations. It’s a beautiful scene. Mary and Joseph huddled close around the Christ child. Wise men, shepherds, and angels admiring from the periphery.
Of course, the nativity scene in its popular form is a literary construction combining the nativity stories of Luke and Matthew. In Matthew, the focus is on Mary, the wise men from the East, and the flight into Egypt. In Luke, the focus is on Joseph, the shepherds, and Jesus’ presentation in Jerusalem.
But before you throw your Peanuts nativity set in the trash, consider the theological lesson the scene is teaching us. In a way, the entire creation is captured in the scene. There are the creatures of earth and the angels of heaven. There are men and women, young and old, educated and uneducated, impoverished and affluent. Indeed, all of humanity, no matter their life circumstance, is found in the nativity scene. And in the middle, holding the attention of every character, is the Christ child.
It can be a powerful moment of meditation to try to find yourself in the scene. Maybe you’re like the poor uneducated shepherds who heard the proclamation of salvation while going about your daily life. Or maybe you’re like the affluent and educated wise men who found Christ after countless years of searching for him in the scriptures. Maybe you’re like Mary or Joseph, who received a miraculous word from God and in that moment trusted God’s merciful provision. There are many characters you may identify yourself with in the nativity story.
But what if I told you that if you are a Christian you’re not in any of those characters? What if I told you that even though you may have been identified with those characters, now you no longer are? For those who are called by Christ and baptized into his life, death, and resurrection, your place is quite literally in the middle with the body of Christ. That means that for the believer, you are no longer called to identify with any of the other characters found in the nativity scene, for “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
For those who are in Christ, you are in the middle of the nativity scene with Christ holding together and reconciling the entire scene, and indeed all of creation. As members of Christ’s body, let us focus on this same ministry of reconciliation this Advent season.
How might you focus on Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in your own personal life and in your ministry this Advent season?