he coming of Christmas will find a common text sounding from the lecterns of our churches. It will be a moment of blessed unity when we hear anew those familiar verses from Luke 2:1-15. A beautiful thing about Christmas is that we can picture it. It is a story that connects deeply with us. It is about a human birth, a feeding trough, and an inn with a no-vacancy sign. It is about young, inexperienced parents, who are traveling alone far from their home because the Roman emperor has ordered them to be counted for a tax. The birth is announced in the pasture to lower class shepherds, who receive the good news with joy and wonder, abandoning their flock for a time, to go and see the thing that has happened for themselves. Yes, we can picture it. We can trust it to be true. This story is about ordinary folks like us.

We always had a Nativity scene on display in our childhood home once the Christmas tree was decorated. The characters appeared each year in

December. They were familiar. As children, they taught us the sacred story. These were not pristine figurines, but ones that had seen a lot of action over the years. Though cherished deeply, they were also chipped, cracked, and faded. Sometimes they got lost among our toys. The angel and the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and even Baby Jesus were included in our playtime. They helped us to keep Christmas real. Often other characters appeared in the scene: a dog from the farm set, a plastic dinosaur, a little stuffed bear, or tiny toy soldiers. As children, we mixed and matched the visitors to the manger. All were included at the cradle of the Christ.

So here’s the challenge for us this year. To participate in the Nativity by being present in a special way. Imagine a manger scene that includes you. Stand in the circle with the shepherds. Listen to the announcement of the angel and hear the chorus of praise. Run and see. See Mary and Joseph, offering them your help with their difficult journey. Receive them as members of your own family. And, take that little baby, Jesus, into your arms and into your heart. Hold him close. Keep him safe and let the miracle of his coming and the power of this love shape your life anew.

May your Christmas be a joyful, holy time that is filled with the light of God’s love. May you know that you are not alone — you are never alone. God is with you. There is always room at the manger for you. May the scene stay with you long after the figurines are packed away for another year.

Blessed Christmas!