I’ve just set up my Nativity crib scene and I’m struck by what a busy little gathering it is. The manger, where baby Jesus will lie on Christmas Day, is surrounded on all sides by people and animals. There’s his mother Mary and his father Joseph. There are shepherds, wise men, angels and various others – probably, I think, people of Bethlehem who just happened to be around at the time.
This got me thinking about how God orchestrated this gathering so beautifully at the first Christmas.
So how did God set up the first Nativity crib scene?
Well, first, he used the Roman census to get Mary and Joseph (and the donkey!) to Bethlehem. Then he sent angels to the shepherds to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth. Then he put a huge star over the place where Jesus was born to guide the wise men to him. And then, by chance, there were others who also came and saw the baby. So that, in the end, we have a wonderful congregation – of all ages, backgrounds and even species – greeting the arrival of Jesus into our world.
What about today, this Christmas?
I believe that God also wants us to gather together today to remember and celebrate the birth of Christ. Some people may be intentionally journeying this Christmas to meet up with us; or we may be journeying ourselves to meet with them. God may be prompting many people to gather with others at carol services or Christmas services to hear the story of a Saviour who was born to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all. These congregations will be of all ages and backgrounds – and may even, here and there, include a donkey or a lamb!
Gathering is an essential part of Christmas
So let’s make sure we are part of God’s Nativity crib scene this year. If someone invites us to Church, let’s say yes. Let’s make the effort to go to the place God wants us to be, as Mary and Joseph did. If we hear God inviting us in our hearts, let’s say yes. Let’s say, as the shepherds did, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place.’ If we are from another culture, even another faith, let’s see what we can learn from the story and message of Christmas. Let’s travel on a journey of exploration, as the wise men did, and see what this child in a manger has to teach us.
Let’s gather – young and not so young, rich and not so rich – in our churches and in our homes. Let’s discover what a baby, a very special baby, has to show us and the amazing difference he has the power to make in our lives and our world.