Somewhere behind the decorations box and the special presents bought early and stored carefully away for Christmas (which we will no doubt be unable to locate in time), lurk the figures from the nativity scene. There they perch, maybe appearing a little chipped and worn, maybe a little dusty, but waiting for their time in the sun…or at least under the star!
Which of the characters depicts us as we plan for Christmas?
Are you Joseph, struggling with the weight of responsibility? Perhaps you are bewildered by the way events have changed so dramatically during the year. Do you seek security for those you care for, experiencing knock backs and closed doors? Must you settle for something less than you planned for, but are hopeful nonetheless of the promise hidden within those you support?
Are you the humble donkey? Have you patiently carried the precious gift of someone special on a long journey this year? Have you finally arrived, exhausted yet fulfilled, believing that soon your efforts will be rewarded?
Maybe you are a bit like the ox, with circumstances forced upon you. Suddenly you have encountered something holy at a time and in a way you could never have anticipated.
Has it been a year of asking searching questions of yourself and others? Like the wise ones, have you undertaken a journey of discovery, seeking enlightenment? Perhaps, at times, you have listened to the wrong advice, as when the wise ones turned to King Herod. Are you ready to share your gifts with Jesus?
Not all of the colourful characters of our nativity stories earn a spot in the nativity scene. The innkeeper and Herod are both notably absent. Perhaps you can identify a little with the innkeeper this year. Have you shut the door, overwhelmed by the amount of need out there? Or have you shunted new initiatives into some back room, only to have them blossom without any real effort from yourself? Have you locked Jesus away fearful of what he is calling to birth in your own heart?
With King Herod, are you threatened by something new? Are you guilty of stifling a fledgling dream because you perceive it may undermine your own agenda? Have you confused the truth seekers, the wise ones, giving them mixed messages out of your own insecurity?
Are you a shepherd, transfixed with the wonder of what is happening in your midst? Do you regard yourself unworthy of all the attention or feel clumsy in your efforts to serve? Or perhaps you are an angel, confidently announcing the Good News to all whom you meet.
And we are all Mary, patiently awaiting the birth of Christ who has already found a home in our heart. Are we eager to bring forth the Word to our needy world, despite the darkness of our surrounds, the perceived inappropriateness of the setting? Do we live in joyful expectation, quietly confident that God’s promise will be fulfilled?
Perhaps we are a little of all these characters. How do we plan to grow in our faith and share our faith in 2016? Planning for our lives, our families and our communities will almost certainly fail, if conceived in the sterilised laboratories of meetings and text books, detached from the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of our everyday experiences. Let us embrace the journey of the Holy Family as our own story, where our plans and expectations shifted to accommodate Jesus Christ in the messiness and beauty at the heart of our life.
The star beckons, what or whom will we find on our arrival? And who does Jesus see in us?