I have a nativity that belonged to my grandmother. I'm not sure where she got it as I never saw it displayed in her home. Whether it was a gift or a bargain buy she couldn't pass up, I will never know. I do know that I am glad I have it, not only because it was hers but because I think it lovely and unique in that it has no babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. There's a baby, yes, but He is held in His mother's arms.
Not to mention a fair amount of dust.
A housekeeper, I am not.
Nor am I a skilled iPhone photographer so please excuse the blurry photo.
My first reaction was one of dismay and maybe a little self-hatred, both in regard to my lack of housekeeping skills as well as our tendency to cover every horizontal surface in this house with all sorts of remnants of daily life: books, newspapers, mail, empty tea glasses, you name it. It doesn't seem right, somehow, for baby Jesus to be surrounded by dirt and dust and the ordinary accoutrements of our day-to-day living. Jesus and the tv remote? It seems almost sacrilegious. Maybe I should put Him on a top shelf somewhere, away, protected, safe, special.
But isn't that just what Christmas is, Jesus in our ordinary? The Son of God not considering equality with God something to be grasped, but making Himself nothing, taking on human form, coming to earth as a baby (Phil. 2:6-8). What an ordinary plan! What humility! We might set out to save the world via the sort of Savior born into wealth and prestige and certainly privy to our modern conveniences of satellite broadcasts and twitter feeds and 24 hour news cycles, not to mention deodorant and tailored suits and air conditioning. And epidurals.
Not so God. When the time had fully come He sent forth His Son (Gal. 4:4), to a family in poverty enduring oppression under a hostile regime. He was born in a stable, among livestock. Can you imagine the dirt and the smell? What a place to give birth! What a place to cradle your newborn Son--in a manger, a feeding trough!
The humility of Jesus' birth, the humility of His life and His death, all are echoed in Paul's assertion that for our sake He who was rich became poor so we through His poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus entered into the dust and dirt of this world so that we might know the glory and the beauty of life in Him and with Him. We are rich indeed, we who have Christ.
While it's certainly not the sort of Christmas decorating that will grace the pages of my Southern Living magazine, I find that a nativity surrounded by real life is in some ways wholly appropriate. Jesus in my ordinary revealing the extraordinary. What grace. What condescension. Hallelujah, what a Savior.