My hometown church has a tradition in which they choose a family who has celebrated a birth within the past year and tap them to play Mary, Joseph, and Jesus during their Christmas Eve service. They don’t need to do much other than throw on some costumes and walk out at the end of the service to stand in the middle of the chancel. If the baby is up for it, the parents may even place them in the manger for added effect.
One year, the family designated for this role seemed comfortable enough to attempt this additional move. Mary placed baby Jesus in the manger. A short while later, Jesus had worked themselves up to a position where they were gripping the side and looking out at the congregation, at which point they gave everyone a wide, pleasant smile.
Everyone loved this moment. It was the perfect capstone to an evening in which the story had been read, sung, and modeled by a baby taking full advantage of their big moment.
I often long for such a moment to re-present itself while shoppers rush to claim Black Friday deals and ads bombard my senses, while the demand for the perfect holiday drives people and families and even churches and ministers to the very edge of one’s wits. I wish for such a moment when the appearances of a pleasant holiday become more important than the needs of those to whom the Christ child was born.
But that innocence and truth are still in Christmas. It may have been painted over with layers of privilege and self-preservation and consumption such that it’s easy to forget what this season really means.
But if you work long and hard enough to peel those back, you get a baby in a manger smiling at you, calling you to remember again.
If you enjoyed this reflection, check out my new Advent ebook, Four Weeks: Reflections for Advent.