Summary: Christmas is filled with details large and small, but the important detail is God's incredible love in Jesus Christ who came to save us.
One of my childhood Christmas highlights was putting up the crèche. I don’t know why my Norwegian family called the nativity set by its French name, but we did. First we would put the wooden framework in place. In back of it was a music box which we wound to play a tired version of “Silent Night” while we unpacked the ceramic pieces which were wrapped in newspaper from the previous January. Mary was all dressed in blue, Joseph in brown and green, several sheep, a donkey, a cow with broken horns, two shepherds, and a manger with two baby Jesuses just in case one got lost (because, apparently, one had gone missing one year when I was very young, and I had become hysterical about the missing baby Jesus who was later found). The kings were there, complete with a glossy lacquer finish which, 50 years ago, was a sort of bling. When all that was in place, we got the step-stool from the kitchen, climbed up, and carefully pushed a hatpin into the ceiling tile. From that pin hung three-feet of fish-line and a silver star.
In my teens, I started managing the crèche in keeping with Luke’s story. The animals arrived first and made themselves at home (it was their stable, after all). Then Mary and Joseph arrived with an empty manger between them. Finally, Jesus took his place in that manger, the star was put into place, the shepherds came, and the wise men started their long trek from across the room.
As some of you know, I haven’t outgrown doing this, slowly and deliberately. Mary and Joseph stood painfully alone all through Advent while Jesus and the angel hid with the wise men. Jesus is here tonight with Mary and Joseph and the hovering angel, but the wise men are way over there because they didn’t start their journey until the star rose over Bethlehem, and it’s going to take them awhile to get here. (which reminds me: this is a perfect opportunity to invite you to come back on Sunday to see how far the wise men have moved!)
There are a lot of details involved in our celebration of Christmas, but I want to assure you that, if the little baby Jesus gets lost or if the wise men take their places in the stable in early December, the sky is not going to fall, no curse has been put upon you, and those of us with OCD will not un-friend you. Christmas is all in the details, but not THOSE details.
The details that really matter on this night (and every night) are these:
God saw that humanity was in trouble,
that our sin was out of control,
that we were increasingly living in brokenness,
and that, even when we gave it our best attempt,
we could not save ourselves.
So God came to earth as a human baby to save us as no one and nothing else could.
All this God did out of incredible, immeasurable love for us,
in spite of our brokenness,
in spite of our sins,
because long, long ago, God created us “very good”
and it didn’t take long for us to fall from that description
so God gave everything to redeem us from ourselves.
There are so many wonderful, special details of this season. For some, it’s the special meal. For others, it’s the music. Some love wrapping presents and others love unwrapping them. Go ahead and enjoy all of the details you love. Bask in traditions new and old. Celebrate well and often. Just don’t forget Emmanuel (God with us) Jesus the Christ who is the detail we can’t live eternally without. Amen