Thursday, December 13, 2007

What a Child Taught Me About the Nativity

It always amazes me how the tiniest children seem to have a greater understanding of Christianity than I do. I have read many books and listened to many sermons. Despite my efforts, my friend's three year old continues to humble me with her simple faith and deep theological understanding.

I have talked about this little girl before. This particular story stems from our attempts to set up a nativity set together. Everyone knows how a nativity set is supposed to look. Here is a diagram of how I have always done it:

Mary is the red figure and Joseph is the blue figure. The Baby Jesus faces out so that we can see his face. The shepherds and magi flank the scene as if they are coming to see the Christ. The angel is usually over the manger scene or off to the side. The goal is to make the presentation as cinimatic as possible for those who come to look at it. That is how I have always done it. Looking back on it now, this way seems pretty staged and unrealistic.

What a simple lesson I have been taught by a mere child! When I let this little girl set up my nativity set, this is how she decided that it should be arranged:
Mary stays put, but Jesus is turned around so that the two figures are looking at each other and making eye contact. Doesn't this make sense that Mary and her child would be so intimate on that first Christmas Eve? Showing the connection between the Theotokos and her Child had never occurred to me. I do not know if she did this on purpose, but Joseph does not stand next to Mary. He is on the opposite side as if to be apart from the union between mother and Child.

Most importantly, she put all of the other visitors (to include the angel) right next to the manager. This looked horrible artistically, but it was theologically perfect! They were all crowded around tightly and she spent considerable time and effort in getting each of them as close to Christ as possible. No one faced out like the way that I have always done it. They all faced inward; pointed at the Baby.

Her reasoning for bunching them up was simple. She told me, "You can't see Jesus when you are so far away from Him."

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