With three weeks left until Christmas I finally busted out my holiday decoration mojo. The garlands and lights are up, the poinsettias are lovingly placed and the crystal centerpiece is languishing on the table.
The Nativity scene is in the window. Minus the Wizards.
The mystic in me loves that their were wizard astrologers who saw the signs in the stars and travelled to see Jesus. I remember eating lunch with another blogger who was amazed at the idea that the “Wise Men” were actually wizard astrologers. That’s how good we Christians can be about shoving mysticism under the carpet. They weren’t Mystics! They Were Mysterious People! yeah! No matter how we bowderlise, the fact remains–they were wizards.
The fact also remains that they didn’t show up until Jesus was a young child–two years old or so. I never ever ever put them out with the Baby Jesus nativity, for much the same reason that I don’t put a block of Velveeta cheese there, either. They’re both out of place.
But as I was setting Mary, Joseph, Infant Jesus, Random Shepherd and Sheep on the window sill I got to thinking…is the Nativity idolatry? It is, at its most basic form, a graven image. I know of several families who gather around the nativity scene in their homes for Christmas devotions and prayers.
Whenever I see them they remind me in their own way of Buddhist and Hindu shrines–something that most Christians would call “idolatry” without question. It makes me wonder about people and our need to see what we worship.
The mystic in me has long been uncomfortable with the current fashion of Christian Christmas anyway. All of the desire to reduce the mystical and unknowable Trinity into a knowable thing we can all control–a baby–makes me uneasy. It’s as though we would rather deal with God on our terms so we focus all of our energy on taking the greatest and most infinite and most holy into the weakest and most precarious form of human life imaginable.
I realise the magic of the Birth Of Christ story is that the infinite God allowed itself to be subject to that form for a passing time in order to deliver humans from their finite existence and allow them direct communication with the Divine. (We Christians more commonly call this “salvation” and “prayer”). But it troubles me that the Weak God has become the fetish of our focus. We love the story of God as helpless infant and we love the story of God as a bloodied, dying man. We can’t seem to bear the thought of God as mighty and triumphant and everywhere mystical and existing.
Yes, God did make himself lower than the angels. But that was the act of a supremely magnificent and mystical God. I wish we focused more on that greatness.