Perhaps like many of you, we took time over the Thanksgiving weekend to decorate our home for the Christmas season. It began with my usual decorating the outside walkways with candy canes. It continued with putting up my beloved Christmas village. We put up our tree with ornaments we’ve collected over the years, and we put up our Nativity set.
We have several Nativity sets in our home and in my office. My favorite is actually the one that is not the most appealing. It is one that currently sits in my office. It is a small painted set that I got at a White Elephant Christmas party years ago. When it came to me and my turn to trade it or keep it, I actually went against the custom of trading and kept the set. Why? Because at the time I didn’t have a Nativity set of my own and it was quirky enough that I felt it and I would be a good match.
Nativity sets, no matter what they are or look like, are treasured decorations each Advent and Christmas season. They combine all the elements of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke to give us an artistic rendering of the scene. The descriptions we have from Scripture do not take place with all the characters – Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, and the Magi –being there together at the same time. So, there is artistic liberty taking place in many of our sets, and we can appreciate how they invite us to see things that are present within the stories that lead up to Jesus’ birth.
Throughout the Advent season, we are going to take a look at some of the characters that appear in our Nativity sets. We’ll share about their lives, how they came to be part of the story, and how they shape our understanding of Jesus’ birth and what it means for us today. Our journey beginswith the least known of the characters involved with Jesus’ birth – Joseph. Continue reading “The Nativity: Joseph”
It was just an ordinary day in the City of Bethlehem.
The population, in those days, was around 1,000 people. That is a little more than double the latest Census estimate for Salvisa. All of those 1,000 people and more were gathered in Bethlehem on that day. The people were under the authority of the Roman Empire, which had no problem throwing its weight around. On that particular day, the people under Rome’s authority were required to return to their hometown in order to be counted. This was an ordinary occurrence for the people in Bethlehem, because Rome made it a habit of doing things to reminded people of their authority and power.
It was also an ordinary day for those outside of Bethlehem. Residing around the hillsides outside of Bethlehem were a group of shepherds. The shepherds were doing their job. They were keeping watch of their sheep to make sure they stayed safe from intruders. Shepherds were not the most beloved group of people. Some tolerated them as those who performed a needed task in society, but the people had little use for them. Others viewed them as thieves, because they would do what was needed in order to survive even if it meant taking from others. On that day they were just trying to live and survive. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope”
The shepherds were out in the fields, that night, simply doing their jobs. They were situated on a hillside just outside of Bethlehem watching their flock. We do not know what they did to pass the time. I like to think they sat around the fire and told stories from Scripture and the prophets. Whatever they did it is they likely did not expect what they experienced that evening.
It was on that hillside, so long ago, that the shepherds were greeted by an angel, who approached them as a “stranger.” A fearful sight, indeed, when someone is not expecting a visitor, especially one of a heavenly nature. The angel tells the shepherds that they had no reason to fear. That is because the angel came with an important message for all. A message that would change the world and continues to do so today. The message was an announcement of good news of an event that had occurred in Bethlehem, the City of David. That event was the birth of a child.
This wasn’t the announcement of just any birth. It was the announcement of the Savior’s birth. The long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, is born. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Sermon: Go. See. Tell.”
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Nativity figurines are interesting decorations. For many of us, these are some of our most prized Christmas decorations. At the … Continue reading Sunday’s Sermon: What Mary and Joseph Show Us About Peace