A couple of weeks ago my friend Sarah texted me a picture of her manger scene that she and her two daughters, Annie and Julia, aged 13 and 7, set up in their home. It was the traditional manger scene that we see in every home this time of year and like the one sitting in our sanctuary here in church (only a lot smaller).
There was the wooden creche resembling a barn and inside were three wise men bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the poor shepherds and Joseph and Mary leaning over the manger where the newborn King of the Jews was lying peacefully.
It all seems so idyllic and perfect if it weren’t for the three Disney princesses dolls right in front blocking the view that Annie and Julia placed in the manger scene!
Sarah wrote below the picture, “Disney princesses and Barbie have apparently made the trip to Bethlehem!” She included a laughing emoji.
It looks crazy. The dolls look out of place in their intricate tiny ballroom gowns and tiaras standing near the shepherds and wiseman in their first century clothes. At first glance the scene is comical maybe even bordering on sacrilegious.
There could be a lot of reasons why Julia and Annie placed their dolls in the manger. Maybe when they brought the manger out of storage they discovered they were missing some of the shepherds and used their dolls as replacements. Or just maybe they were trying to be cute and funny.
Whatever their intention I would argue that whether they knew it or not they created the perfect manger scene which captures the true meaning of what the manger represents and why Jesus came into the world.
Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords and of Disney and Barbie princesses. Jesus was born into this world to save us from our sins. He came into this world to bring all of us true joy, peace and love.
In this manger scene all are welcome and have a place. For those who feel that they don’t belong for whatever reason you are welcome.
For those who feel you don’t fit it in you have a place here.
For those who are bullied you have a safe place in this manger scene.
No matter how guilty you feel over something you’ve done in the past you are welcome here.
For those who have been away from church and the practice of the faith your home is waiting for you in this manger scene.
This time of the year we’re inundated with Christmas movies: A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street! They are all wonderful, but I have to confess that my absolute favorite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
My favorite scene is at the very end when Clark Griswold finally receives his Christmas gift from his mean and miserly boss from work. Clark thinks it’s a Christmas bonus which he is going to use to pay for a swimming pool he can’t really afford. It turns out to be a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
Cousin Eddy with his usual country bumpkin charm (who by the way like Disney princesses at a manger scene does not really fit in with the rest of the family) tries to console him, He says, “Clark, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!”
As most of you know who have seen the movie, it was the wrong thing to say to Clark at that moment because Clark loses his mind.
Yet, Cousin Eddy, despite his awkwardness, is the voice of reason and expresses what this season is all about and why we are here tonight.
This is the feast of the gift that keeps on giving!
On this day humanity was given the greatest gift ever given. Jesus. HE IS the gift that keeps on giving. What does that really mean? How do we do that?
We seek out opportunities to honor the priceless gift we have been given. Listen to those who are ignored. Remember those who are forgotten. Stand up for those who are victims of hate, or violence, or disrespect.
When we look into the eyes of another, no matter what their circumstances try to see how Jesus sees them: Here is a life that is unique, and blessed, created by the One who created us all.
Every life, in fact, is a miracle. Jesus made it so.
He makes everyone welcome at the manger scene.