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Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Nativity of our Lord

It's Christmas Eve. In fact, it's past 9.00 p.m. on Christmas Eve in Sweden so that means most families there and in other parts of Europe are well into their festivities.
Clergy holding the nativity. A piece of our caroler collection
For us, it's the first Christmas in 25 years that we haven't been working.
An Immanuel Christmas program from a long time ago...a favorite child of mine spreading the good news of great joy!
We'll spend this evening with some other retired pastor friends, attend the mega-church in town where we can be anonymous and enjoy a big production with good music and head back to their place for a nice meal. We've had visits from friends this week, one family from London, one friend from Stockholm who lives in the US now, and we anticipate some more company next week. I hurt my back earlier this week. Feels like a bad muscle strain but it has definitely cramped my style. Makes me glad I'm not putting on a Christmas Day buffet for 100 people! As awesome as those memories are, it's also quite OK that we're onto something new here. It's chilly in the desert and with lots of rain this week, it means our mountains are coated in a glorious layer of snow. The sun is shining brightly today and so my buddy Jen and I started the day in the hot tub. Some of the new things this time around are truly welcome.
The one thing that doesn't change is that Christians all over the world tonight and tomorrow will gather to enter the mystery of the incarnation once again and rejoice that the Light came into the world and that the darkness did not overcome it. Most of us feel that this is more timely than ever this year, when the political climate has led us to feel a great deal of despair rather than hope. And yet, here we are, on Christmas eve, ready to approach the manger with awe and wonder because of the way that God made himself so approachable to us when he sent his son Jesus to come into this world as a tiny little baby to lead us to hope and peace. The road to peace and hope is often very long, and yet, I feel sustained by my faith in something greater than the what the world offers.
Sweden: Orrefors crystal
Sorrento, Italy: Outdoor rendering
Throughout our travels across this vast world, one constant has remained the same...the nativity has a place in the church's story. The various renderings of this age old story always catch my eye with beauty and joy. And so today, as await with hope, joy, peace and love, our celebrations of the arrival of the Christ child once again, I leave you with these gorgeous views of the nativities from across our globe.

Barcelona, Spain: The Nativity carvings outside of La Sagrada Familia &
The Wise Men at La Sagrada Familia

Italy: Nativities dot the Amalfi coast around every corner

On Epiphany, a huge processional takes place through Sorrento culminating with the visit from the Magi.
The Wise Men and Holy Family pause to enjoy
the fireworks on Epiphany
Italy: Even the baker took his craft to new heights with his bread nativity
Sri Lanka: A beautiful batik that was a gift from a church member in Stockholm
Bethlehem, Palestine:
The spot that commemorates the place where Jesus is said to have been born
Palestine: Olive wood nativity that graces our home
I've had other nativities through the years, one from Ecuador that I treasured but since it was made from bread dough, it disintegrated through our various moves. I suppose I will always be curious to see how the nativity shows up in the various places we travel because one thing is for sure...wherever Christ's birth is celebrated, art depicting this holy event will surely follow.
A cute US rendition
Wherever you are, however you celebrate, may the mystery and joy of the incarnation surround you with love, joy, peace and hope.