A Perfectly Imperfect Scene

Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 24, 2017

By: Andrew Moore

I love nativities.  I love seeing how different sets depict the Christmas story in different ways.  Setting up my nativities is my favorite part of decorating for the holidays.  This year I put out three nativities at home.

One is a traditional set that I got as a Christmas present a number of years ago.  The ceramic figures are instantly recognizable.  The second set is made of cut-out wooden figures with beautiful illustrations of the characters pasted on the front.  It has a storybook quality to it that I love.  The third set is entirely knitted.  The characters have such a splendidly simple quality that appeals to me.  The sight of each of my nativities goes a long way toward getting my heart ready for Christmas.

When I worked as a Children’s Minister in Memphis we had an incredibly eclectic nativity set that we used in our Children’s Chapel.  There was an Episcopal bookshop in town that stocked nativities from around the world.  And whenever sets would have damaged pieces, the manager would sell us the remaining pieces of the set at a heavy discount.  So we had accumulated shepherds and angels and baby Jesuses from far-flung corners of the globe.  None of them matched.  But the kids didn’t care.  Each Sunday in the seasons of Advent and Christmas the children were invited to choose figures to populate our nativity.  The result would be a mish-mash of size and style that was always perfect in its eccentricity.

Those mish-mash nativities remain my favorites.  Because to me they represent what that gathering in the stable is all about.  Teenage parents huddled in a barn, driven from their home by the ruling empire. Misfits and cast-offs, field laborers and the heavenly host, all drawn to the manger, hungering to bear witness to God in the world.  A rag-tag collection of animals.  It’s a perfectly imperfect scene.

And it perfectly encapsulates Jesus’ life and ministry.  He gathers us around him in all our glorious imperfection and loves us perfectly, not in spite of our imperfections but because of them.