I’ve been collecting nativities for a number of years. Not your shiny, happy, plastic variety mind you but the kind that have a story. Or, seem to have a story.
One of my favorite nativities is from Rwanda. My dear friend and former flatmate, Laura, gave it to me upon her return from that country, having done relief work and research amongst child-headed households that were born out of the genocide. I literally cannot fathom what it’s like to live through the kind of tragedy that country experienced; the terror and destruction must have cut so deep that the very timbers of the land were affected. Knowing all that occurred in that nation is part of why I’m so drawn to this particular nativity. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are carved out of a block of deep, ebony-colored wood, each carrying expressions of weariness and joy. I don’t know who carved this particular piece, but I do know it was created at time when the country was engaged in formal, and informal, reconciliatory talks. I envision the wood maker fashioning the scene whilst working through issues of marrow-deep pain, hurt and anger, all the while contemplating the story of Christ’s coming to earth.
More and more, I have a hard time getting behind slap-happy Christmas songs, stories and endeavors. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be festive and have a good time. But, I think we could stand to do a better job of acknowledging both the joyous and the difficult this time of year. Christ came to carve something new, beautiful and redemptive out of the broken and depraved places of our world and hearts. And that is something worth celebrating.