Luke 2:10 (ESV) | And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Do you have a nativity set in your home, with its line-up of unique figures? There’s Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger. A shepherd or two, three wise men on camels, an angel, a token sheep or donkey, and the star-topped stable. Imagine if one of your pieces got lost; that’s the kind of unfortunate event that spells emotional disaster for the kids in our midst—especially if it’s their favorite character! Each figure tells a unique and significant part of the redemption story God was putting in motion that night 2,000 years ago.
Still, Christmas traditions like putting together a nativity scene can feel worlds apart from the realities we live with today. Globally, we hear about wars and refugees, shootings, sex trafficking, and racial injustice. Personally, we may be struggling to put effort into celebration if we’re in a season of pain or loss, or just worn out from daily demands.
Our hearts may respond to these realities in grief, fear, or even some sense of hopelessness.
And it’s into that world—the one of pain and brokenness—that the angels speak their message of joy.
It’s not in spite of but because of all those real world realities that we need to stop and look fully at the Christmas story.
At Christmas we turn our hearts to a tangible hope for all our brokenness and strife. We gaze on it in the form of nativity sets and children’s Christmas programs. As each unique figure takes their place around the manger they confront us with a different view of our world. It’s a glimpse of the way the world is meant to be, where things of earth and things of heaven come together, and where painful segregations are removed in a focus locked on Jesus.
This is what heaven looks like on earth.
At the manger, the shepherds—poor, outcast, blue-collar workers with simple beliefs, stand alongside the wise men—among the most wealthy, educated, spiritual seekers in the world. The supernatural realm becomes visible in the form of angels, filling the sky with light and beauty, and the soundwaves with songs of worship. Even creation and the cosmos line up with God’s plan, as the star announces the presence of the Holy and the animals stand sentinel at Jesus’ side.
At the manger, there is no more separation.
At the manger, all are welcome.
At the manger, God is with us—all of us. And we are capable of being with each other.
Looking at the manger reminds us of the way life was in the Garden of Eden, where people lived in harmony with God, each other, and all of creation, and where there was no brokenness at all.
It reminds us of the way life will be again someday, at the Revelation throne, where all people and nations will come together in worship.
And it reminds us that this kind of living is possible even now, even in this time between the first and final chapters of God’s story. Because the manger comes to us in the middle of the mess.
In the middle of the mess, God is with us. His acceptance and welcome are here for all of us now. He is ready to turn all of our ordinary stable settings into places of angelic worship.
He invites us to pray, “Let it be here like it is in heaven, right now.” Let segregations cease and walls come down. Let all people know their place of value and invitation to stand at God’s side. Let all people rejoice no matter what their human situation, because God is with us and for us—right now.
So do not be afraid. There is still good news of great joy for all people.
Even for you.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- In your own life, what things can cause you to disconnect during holiday gatherings, or block you from receiving the joy of the Christmas story?
- Are you carrying any grief, pain, or heaviness—your own, or another’s? Can you bring your “mess” to the manger and let Jesus be with you in the midst of it?
- Have you experienced God’s acceptance of you and received his welcome into the story? Ask God to make his promised joy more deep and personal for you this Christmas.
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