A few days ago we put up our Christmas tree, and our crib, and gradually, other Christmas decorations. I don't usually put the tree up so early, being a firm believer that Christmas begins on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days after that. However, the last few days have been so busy with INYB's production of the Nutcracker that I decided to do it a little early. I put my nativity scene up as well. This is a very plain and basic nativity made from olive wood, that I have had for several years. The starkness and simplicity of it appeals to me.
As usual, I put the whole scene up, including the baby Jesus. This doesn't trouble me, which is strange really. As a child, I went to Midnight mass with my parents and when we got home we had a little ceremony of putting the baby Jesus in the crib. Until then, the little stable held only Mary, Joseph and the animals. And the whole thing continued, with the Wise Men being moved a little each day from their starting point behind the crib somewhere to arrive at the stable on Jan 6th.
For my own nativity scene, however, I have always put everything up at once, baby, Wise Men, camels, the whole thing.
I have a friend who always says to me - oh no - baby Jesus doesn't arrive until Christmas Eve - you can't put him in now! And I have always shrugged this off as not important, which to me it isn't. But until this year I hadn't really thought about it. WHY isn't important to me whether my nativity scene has the baby in it or not?
I thought about it and I realised. I am not a religious person in the sense of churches and prayers and hierarchy. I am, however, a very spiritual person, in the sense that I respect every other living creature, human, animal or plant. I believe that there is something of God (whatever you believe God to be) in every living thing, and it is up to each one of us to reach out to that 'something of God' in each other living creature. So it doesn't matter to me whether baby Jesus is in my nativity or not. Jesus and his teachings are always here. He is in every moment of every day. He is in every person that I speak to. He is in every person that I ignore.
This will make some people smile, because I really am not a religious person. But I do genuinely believe that God is in every one of us. And that Jesus showed us the way we should try to live. So whether my little nativity has its baby or not, its irrelevant.
The message is here, in everyone's heart. If we can't find it, then we need to look harder. A few years ago I made Christmas cards with the message 'And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness knew it not'. Each card was water coloured and it took me ages, but to me, somehow, the message was important. No matter how dark it is, there is always light. Christmas is hard for many people who have lost loved ones. But the message is always there. No matter how dark it is, the light will always come back.
And amidst the glaring flashing shops, the canned music, the constant cries to spend more money to get yourself the perfect Christmas - amidst all this, is the message of hope, light and love.
Christmas is about love, love for each other, acceptance of each other, sharing with each other. That's what each present means. Love, share and accept. Personal items don't mean a thing. Who has dinner where doesn't mean a thing.
What matters is what is in your heart.