Christmas is now over. After we recover from the celebrations, it will be time to pack up. As we put away the lovely nativity scenes, I wonder about the continuing relevance of the nativity for us as contemporary Christians.
As we pack away the magi, I wonder how many people are out there with deep wisdom to share who are dismissed by our prejudice because they look or sound different to us. How many times have we sought to glean insights from people of diverse traditions and cultures in our workplaces, neighbourhoods and schools?
As we pack away the shepherds and the sheep, I wonder how many of us have both a romanticised picture of rural living and aversions to arduous outdoor work and trips to the west. How can we better support our food producers who live and work in places we idealise, but consider too far to help or visit?
As we pack away Mary, I wonder about all the young mums who are sometimes seen as being less because they became mothers at an age which ‘proper’ society deems inappropriate. How many times have we let the young mum with the crying baby take our place ahead in the supermarket queue or given her our seat on public transport?
As we pack away Joseph, I wonder about all the fathers who struggle with the reality that their families have been forced into homelessness – not because of anything ‘wrong’ they have done, but because political and economic structures are designed to advantage some over others. How many times have we stopped on our busy way to buy people sleeping rough a meal or sought assistance for families sleeping in their cars at train stations?
As we pack away the infant Jesus, I wonder about those children whose families must flee to another country just to stay alive. How many times have we welcomed our refugee brothers and sisters in church and invited them to coffee at a local café or to our homes for a hearty meal?
As we pack away the angel, and ours has a rather fragile set of fabric wings, I wonder about the times we have dismissed the whispers of God because they came from the voices of those who were rather fragile. How often do we visit the faithful in aged care homes and other institutions, some of whom seem to have been abandoned by all but the God they serve, and the community that seeks to serve God?
If we are to call ourselves genuinely Christian, we need to ensure that our beliefs and actions align. How will we listen to, help, visit, give priority to, seek assistance for or share a meal with those we come across in our everyday lives in the year ahead – those whom the Christmas nativity story represents for each us?