Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells
Many folk have a nativity set on display in their homes or communities at this time of year – it’s part of their preparations for Christmas
I know people who set the figures out progressively through the season – so that at this point, December twenty-first, you would find just Mary and Joseph and the donkey, on their way to Bethlehem. Jesus gets introduced on Christmas Eve; perhaps the shepherds arrive early on Christmas Day. It takes til early January, til Epiphany, for the wise men to land from the East.
I came across a family the other day that play games with the figures that haven’t yet arrived, hiding them from one another in different corners of the house. If you find one before it’s time for that character to appear, then you re-hide it. It’s a risky policy that surely makes for some surprises. Perhaps a shepherd might lose his sheep? What if a king is found under the guest-bed with an angel?
Nativity-sets issue us with an invitation to play and participate. ‘Here is good news to enjoy’, declared the angel.
In one household I know with a jigsaw-style nativity set designed for toddlers, - disaster! - the baby Jesus, went missing one Christmas. They searched in vain and had to put the set away after Christmas minus the most important piece – maybe the dog had eaten it. Weeks later they found it. Where? Their two-year old had a sit-on toy car, with a lift-up seat where he tended to stow all his favourite finds. There was the baby Jesus, tucked away like treasure for safe-keeping, and journeying with the boy wherever he went.
‘Lo I am with you always’ says Jesus. So he was. And so he is. Amen