WELL, HERE we are going into the last week before Christmas and the Church has started to get serious!
For these last eight days, Lent rules apply! Memorias of saints are suppressed (only commemorations are permitted, just as in Lent) and there are special antiphons for the psalms and canticles at Lauds and Vespers (just as in Holy Week). The Church really does want us to concentrate on preparing for the anniversary of the First Coming of our Saviour.
And that is because we must also concentrate our minds on his Second Coming and more urgently on another meeting with Him that will take place in a very short time when our life on this earth comes to an end. So we must spend as much time as possible in the coming week looking deep into our own hearts and asking:
- Are we ready to celebrate the birth of our Saviour?
- Are we ready to welcome Him should he choose to return in glory now? Today?
- Are we fit to be received by Him should He choose to call us to Him now? Today?
I have spent quite a lot of time this Advent making a new Christmas crib for the house. To be honest I started it last year but I didn’t do the measurements properly which meant that all my standing figures would have needed to bend in order to get in! So back to the drawing board. The revised version is a lot better with decent headroom and some LEDs providing just enough illumination so you can see everything but not so much that it loses atmosphere.
For some people the crib is peopled in stages so the only thing in there today would be the ox. Mary, Joseph and the donkey would turn up next Thursday, Jesus before bedtime on Christmas Eve, and so on. Our family has always had the “full cast” present from the beginning and I’m not about to change that but my creation has a little more space and only half a roof (Madame’s idea, that!) which has given me the chance to be a bit different.
So the ox and the donkey are still at the back but instead of having the manger dead centre (would the baby not have been out of the draught? Surely.) it is a bit to one side and rather than have the shepherds all in one group and the wise men all in another, we have the chance “mix and match” a bit. My young shepherds are hanging back a bit, obviously not very sure of themselves and a bit over-awed. One of the wise men is standing with them. The kneeling figures are closer to the manger.
Maybe next year we can add a “fire” for them to warm themselves. Try it it for yourselves!
The gospels — and when we are talking about the Nativity we really mean Luke, don’t we? — give us the bare essentials of Christ’s life and teaching. As John says at the end of his gospel, he could have filled another book and more. There are still unanswered questions around Christ’s birth. What exactly is meant when we hear that Joseph went to Bethlehem because he was “of the family of David”? Surely not every descendant of David’s was crammed into Bethlehem?
Maybe there is a story to be told and I know one possible version by an innkeeper’s son. I’ll tell it before Christmas Day. Promise.