We are very intentional about keeping Jesus at the center of our family’s Advent experience. Let me be really honest, my wife is much better at this than I am. Last year we bought our son his own nativity scene that he could play with. He loved it. He immediately started playing with the angels and Mary and reciting the Christmas story. It was stupid cute. After he got to play with it for a while, we placed the baby Jesus in a small box, wrapped him, and placed him under the tree. On Christmas morning he would be the first gift opened.
My wife also plans “Christmas Mail” during Advent for our son. Everyday he gets “mail” that instructs him to do something that day. One day he needs to go put money in the bucket of a Salvation Army ringer, one days he makes Christmas cookies only to put them in the mailbox for the mail lady the next day, one day we go for a car ride to look at lights, and on one day he goes to sing Christmas carols at a local nursing home.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, my wife is pretty amazing.
Last year she found a local church that was doing a live nativity scene, and included it in the Christmas mail.
When we got to the church, you could tell right away this was going to be a huge ordeal. We arrived early, but there was already a line forming outside the church. Which put my in a bad mood already. I hate crowds. Hate. I can think of no worse thing that being in a slow moving line surrounded by masses of people. I’ve been to Cedar Point a grand total of zero times in my life because, while Millennium-Falcon-Make-You-Yack ride may be awesome, the three hours I have to wait in line surrounded by people is not worth it.
But I waited in line.
We filed into the sanctuary of the church to wait for our chance to “make the journey.” At that point I realized this wasn’t just a live nativity scene with goats and a donkey standing next to people dressed like Mary and Joseph holding a doll, this was a production. We were grouped with other “travelers” on our way to Bethlehem for the census. As we traveled, Roman soldiers stopped us and asked for our papers, people shouted rumors of a king born, taxes were to be paid, and shepherds were seen with their sheep.
This stuff normally does nothing for me. I’m a bit of a scrooge when it comes to these things, but admittedly, this was done well.
We got to the final station, the stable. Mary and Joseph were seated next to a manger. Behind them were stacks of hay where children dressed as angels sat. The birth story was recited and we were given the opportunity to take it all in.
We were near the back of the group, so as people started to leave we were left standing in front of the stable by ourselves..
My son walked up to the manger, which came up to his chest, and put his hands on the edges of it. He rested his arms on the edges, leaned hard on the manger, and peered in. After a long gaze, he turned around with a giant grin on his face.
“It’s baby Jesus!”
It’s baby Jesus.
I’ve missed out on the wonder of that for so long. I’ve allowed myself to become uppity in my aesthetics and knowledge rendering stable and hay and animals too simple. To childish for me. I became haughty in my love of Word-becoming-flesh profundity that a simple scene seemed, well…simple.
Until my child wondered in its majesty.
And I began to see again, as if for the first time. It’s baby Jesus.