I love a Nativity set.
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean my house is filled with them (it would be, but I married a Scandinavian minimalist). I just love the different ways the story is interpreted in figures and symbols, different colours and materials.
We have a ceramic set that we were given shortly after we got married. It’s beautifully simple and every year it’s my job to decide where it goes and how it gets laid out.
Over the years it’s come to end up being quite an insight into my thinking and feeling at that moment.
Like one of those ink blots that’s the shape of a bat, the colour of a bat and is, quite undeniably, a bat. Except, if you look at it and see a bat, you’re some sort of maniac.
It seems that when I put this set out, something within me spills over.
This year, the layout is fairly “traditional”.
Mary holding baby in centre with Joseph standing behind.
Wise men (with camel) standing or kneeling to the right.
Shepherds to the left.
Other animals scattered around.
Nothing new to see here.
In fact, over the past couple of weeks I’ve been wondering what it means.
This failsafe method of mental diagnosis has been drawing a blank.
The location is the same as last year as well. On top of the sideboard that sits in the nook of our living room. It normally holds picture frames, candles, and a blue wooden penguin.
It’s also become a natural station for keys, wallets, and phones. The last flat surface before you enter the kitchen/diner which is the centre of our home.
What’s funny is that even though we’ve replaced the day to day things with a Nativity set, the wallets, keys and phones have still found their way there.
That’s what struck me this morning.
That in between the Nativity figures, there was a collection of other objects.
A pair of glasses resting on a camel.
A baby monitor and it’s cable winding its way around the wise men.
A phone propped up against a shepherd.
And my wallet, leaning on Mary and her baby.
Right now is the bit where I would normally explain why this perfectly highlights the problem of Christmas.
I would make mention of “the real reason for the season” or write about making room for Jesus.
Those are important messages. Really important messages.
But this morning that wasn’t what struck me.
Maybe it’s because I’ve heard that message delivered beautifully this year already, in poems, songs, and sermons (in fact, if you only listen to one person talk about Christmas this year it should be my friend Pete deliver a message on “Audacious Rest” by clicking here).
This morning, I wasn’t challenged to move my stuff out of the way or to get my things out of the scene.
I wasn’t embarrassed into clearing the way, or making sure you could see each character.
I didn’t rush to move everything that “didn’t belong” there.
As I looked at the crowded Nativity, I was reminded that this Christmas, we’re invited to leave whatever is we need to in the stable.
To drop off whatever it is we want, even just for a moment, into this season.
That whether it’s a pair of glasses or our blurry view of our day to day situation.
A tangled baby monitor or our need to be in control.
A mobile phone or our constant striving for affirmation through pings, beeps, shares and likes.
A worn out wallet or the fatigue of making the books balance or the numbers add up.
Wherever you find ourselves.
Whatever we need.
Can be left in the stable.
And, this Christmas, if all you can manage is to drop that stuff off.
If all you can muster is the unloading of the things that are weighing you down.
Then don’t worry if that doesn’t leave space to spend time pondering the story.
Don’t beat yourself up you’ve not got the space to wonder anew at the baby born in Bethlehem.
Don’t feel guilty if you just need to, clear out your locker, empty your mind and crowd up the stable with anything that’s getting in the way.
The Christmas story invites us to.
The stable has room for all of your stuff.
And that baby doesn’t lose sleep when we lean our worries and troubles onto him…even if it means he isn’t the centre of attention for a while.