As I wandered through a Ten Thousand Villages store in Harrisonburg, VA, I was struck by the number of nativities for sale, crafted by artisans from all over the world. Some were made of rocks, others had been formed from clay, and yet others crocheted. Some were tiny, no bigger than a golf ball. Others hang from mobiles. Some were designed to be Christmas tree ornaments. Others were meant to be handled and played with.
I was struck by the reality that in what is called a post-modern, post-Christian world, where we are told nones, atheists and the de-churched comprise a larger and larger portion of our nation, nativities are still in demand. There is still plenty of room among snowmen and Santas for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, shepherds with sheep, and wise men with gifts. I was fascinated and delighted to see that this form of the sacred has not been pushed out of view by the secular.
I believe we can learn something from this. While it’s rarely productive to ram Jesus down people’s throats with threats of eternal damnation, it’s not so hard to slip him into craft fairs, holiday displays, and winter festivals. This is probably why Jesus didn’t come on the clouds with power the first time around. He came as a baby, slipped into the world virtually unnoticed, and found a place in a hostile environment.
That’s the seed we plant and water at this time of the year. God handles the growth.