Thought for the week 26.12.19

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I have a small obsession – I collect models of the nativity scene.

It began when I visited Nazareth on my first visit to Israel/Palestine.

At one point, we were taken to a shop which sold a huge array of crafts and handiwork. What took my eye was a beautifully carved olive wood representation of the stable scene.

I now have about 15 different styles and representations that reflect the culture from which these works come.

One of my favourites is usually placed in a corner of the sitting-room. We can move the pieces around to fit the story. Maybe I will leave my thoughts about dates and times and who went where in the tableau until next year!

One of the most important activities, albeit small and quickly executed, and usually on return from the midnight communion service, is to put the small figure of Jesus in the crib.

On one particular year quite recently, when it came to the matter of placing Jesus where he belonged, the cry went up: ‘Where is Jesus? Where is he? He is not here.’

It seems that somehow this small replica, now missing, had become a
vital component in our celebration of Jesus’s birth. Thinking through this very simple family drama did raise a fundamental observation.

Christmas without Jesus empties the meaning of the whole event. Christmas with Jesus gives us grounds for hope.

Jesus will never be lost to us if we have embraced the gift of undeserved love that he brings. Oh yes! Jesus was found and is at the centre of our family life – not as a wooden carving but a living loving man who was willing to give up his life for us.

May it be so for you too. Have a very happy Christmas.

Ian McFarlane,

Oban Baptist Church.