1 John 4:7-14
7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. 13 This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world.
Everyone knows and loves nativity scenes; almost every culture around the world makes their own version, each depicting the holy family as a part of its culture. These are beautiful representations of the universality of Christ. We can see him dressed like a Russian peasant or born in a tropical island hut, and both speak to the story of who he is. There are places which display these different nativity scenes side by side allowing one to experience them all. Some will be thought provoking, others may bring out a chuckle, but they do leave the imprint of Christ’s mission for all. The best single representation of this fact is the French crèche.
Unlike most nativities the traditional French version brings Christ into the village. They start with a traditional nativity, Mary Joseph, Jesus, shepherds, and then add scale replicas of modern businesses. Some of these even depict the real businesses and people of the town, truly placing themselves into the birth narrative of Jesus. Many cultures around the world will put Jesus into their traditional culture; but the concept of the crèche goes beyond this and brings the birth narrative into our homes and lives. How would you feel if you saw a statue of yourself walking down a street and two blocks over was a group of shepherds bending the knee to the baby Jesus? How would you feel seeing your neighbor in the same picture of Christ’s birth? How would it be to see the Holy Family sitting next to your favorite store? Because it is so personal the crèche becomes a vivid picture of how close the Gospel is to us. For some this is a comforting reminder that as we go through our day, Jesus is nearby; for others it forces them to focus on the fact that Jesus is nearby and they are continuing a different direction. The crèche helps us to focus on the title Emmanuel, God with us, by putting us within the story.
O Lord of all, help me to be reminded that you were born for the entire world, crossing cultures and entering each one; help me also, I pray, to remember that I am in the story of your birth and so are those around me. Amen