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Who is your favorite character at the manger? Who can you most identify with? Who do you wish you were more like? What’s your connection?

Infant holy, Infant lowly, Christ the babe is born today.

I love to put out my nativity scene.  Even in years I don’t put up a tree, I always up my nativity scene.

This year I got a new nativity set from Dayspring and I LOVE it.  Each “character” has a word on its cloak and I love how the word perfectly depicts where I think that person fits into the manger scene. 

I often wonder what each of these characters were thinking while they witnessed the greatest gift of all.

Emmanuel – God with us
Mary – cherish
I cannot imagine the fear in Mary’s heart.  As a woman I know she must have struggled to wonder what people would think about her.  What were the women in her village saying about her behind her back? Where her parent’s embarrassed (we never hear much about them).  How much pressure was it to carry the promised Messiah?  How much pressure was it to raise the Savior? I can only imagine that he was like any other little boy.  Did he have to learn hot and cold? Right and wrong? How did he interact with his siblings?  We know the pressure of a mom for being the mom of a President, or a coach, or a Business Leader.  But, her son was the King of King.  And, she had to share him knowing that his life from the beginning was a sacrifice of epic proportions.
Joseph – love
Only love could let you love a women when everything in your law said not to.  Only love would compel you to obedience and demand the kind of protection he had to provide his family.  Only love would drive persistence from the core of your being.  Only love would let the pressures of the world around you roll off and not cause you to stumble.Only love would let your Son follow His purpose and fulfill his full life’s calling. 
Shepherd – seek, find
A quick definition search of “seek” leads you to – “to go in search or quest for something”.  I love that the other word you find next to the shepherd is “find”.  It’s the purpose of seeking.  And, I love to think of the reward that the shepherds found that starry night.  Can you imagine leaving a hillside probably covered with grass and mud from the days out wandering and find yourself belly up to the manger.  To the trought that held the Messiah, the promised baby.  And, then to spend your days telling the story that few would believe.  I mean really, a bunch of blonde chicks in white fluffy robes with big wings just showed up in the sky out of no where and started singing and you listened to them and found who in a what?  But, their seeking led to finding.  A sheer sense of accomplishment in a life so marked by wander.
Wiseman – worship, give, follow
I talked earlier this week about my thoughts on the wisemen.  The 3 wise guys, as they are some times referred to (although there was more like an entourage), chose to follow the star.  Not just one night, but several.  They recognized that something was different about that night and did not stop until they found the baby.  They were also well enough aware to come prepared with gifts.  They showed up with something to offer.  They came prepared to worship the King; Emmanuel.
The donkey – carry
My dad wrote a song when I was little called “Dudley the Donkey”.  Not sure why Dudley.  Its an Old English name from a root word for wood, clearing or meadow. Some even say it means “the people’s field”.  Maybe it is appropriate. A donkey seems about right.  It was ordinary.  Its what they could afford.  It was a useful animal and probably readily available when they knew it was time to travel. Have you ever tried to ride a donkey?  I can’t say I’m an expert since I’ve only ridden one bareback to play a donkey basketball game.  But since all mine did was stand there, I can assure you it is nothing comfortable.  Its back bone sticks out and it makes for one bumpy experience.  I cannot imagine how Mary made that journey pregnant.  I do love that it was a donkey.  It wasn’t a Clydesdale, Black Stallion, or beautiful white sleigh horse.  It was a donkey.  A grey, dirty field donkey.  Ordinary in all forms. 
barn animals – open
I love to think about these guys.  If you’ve ever been in a field or around farm animals, you know they are curious creatures.  I love how nativity scenes always depict these guys just calmly laying around.  But, I have a feeling that’s not at all how it went down.  I fell very sure that Joseph got to the stables and had to rough house a couple cows, goats and sheep to find a place to put Mary.  I have a feeling he had to gather up some hay that was laying on the bottom of the stable.  Not good hay or straw that was perfectly bound in bale or wheel form, but some that had been around for a while.  I feel like there were some feed bags and other random items laying around that he built up to make a comfortable place for Mary.  This stable was home to these animals.  I’m sure they had a routine.  I’m sure they had been in the field all day and wanted to just lay down and sleep.  Instead, their home was invaded.  They were moved out of their comfortable spot and there among the screaming and the tears, a baby was born.  I can only imagine that curious little noses were pushing their way into the manger.  Their feed trough had been taken over after all.  Wonder what I would do if something like that wanted to invade my world.  Would I be grumpy or disgruntled to find an invader in my place?  Would I be curous enough to peek in? Would I just go find a new place and miss the miracle?
angel – available
And then, this sweet angel face.  The proclamation of “good news”.  The bringer of “glad tiding”.  The spreader of “great joy”.  I’m sure there is not much choice when you are an angel and given an assignment.  But, I feel like it doesn’t matter.  When you are in heaven,I can only believe that you want to tell everyone you can about what you are experiencing.  But, I’m challenged today to think about what my words and life proclaim.  Do I spread the news every where I go?  How would I react if given some of the challenges like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds faced?  I believe today we find angels in lots of different ways and I know that they speak truth into our lives.  May we live differently based on the knowledge of their words. 

This great little book has really drawn me through some quiet moments of reflection and peace this holiday.  I highly recommend it as an awesome tool for advent.  “Reflections” is the perfect word.  It has challenged me to look at each piece of the Nativity puzzle and ponder it. 

Merry Christmas!