The Nativity Scene in the park is colourful, spotlit, orderly…and inaccurate. In our climate it is portrayed outdoors with softly settling snow around. The piped -in music overhead reminds us of the vulnerable sweet babe in the manger.
Years ago, I was given another impression. By Phillip Keller in his book “A Layman Looks at the Lamb of God”. The author had been on a nature photography trip to East Africa. A threatening storm had caused their guide to seek out shelter in order to avoid a drenching.
Eventually they found a simple village of mud thatch huts. The skies darkened. An older gentleman motioned for them to duck and enter the flap doorway of one residence. As they entered, the growlings of the tropical storm commenced.
Lighting was so sparse inside that it took a minute for eyes to adjust. Before them were a couple of goats; at one end a long wooden table; an old woman sitting cross-legged smoking; a central fire burning an offensive fuel of manure chips; an inner pollution gathering around the wall torch.
On the other side of the room, scarcely illuminated, was a teen-age girl with large, liquid eyes and an infant at her breast. Keller and his colleagues felt a little awkward in this situation, but realized that these locals were happy to offer simple hospitality.
Another thunder clap sounded outside. But the greater impression came to Keller’s spirit. It was as if the Heavenly Father had stated by His Spirit: “My Son came into this world in just such a fashion as this!”
Keller heard himself responding, “Yes, Lord, and He almost missed out on even this, because there was no room until the last moment.”
At this time of year do we really get it? The impression of how great a humiliation our Jesus underwent to launch a rescue mission for undeserving sinners? I am sure that an imaginative artist would take this scene in the hut and portray an implement or fixture somewhere casting the shadow of a cross.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that this celebrated infant became a man of great physical energies and charisma, sterling character, preaching hope, comforting the bruised, convicting the hypocritical, telling of a forgiving God and Father.