Advent and Christmas are coming. Many of us have already turned our thoughts to how we will celebrate the season. Once again I will host a series for Advent and Christmas on this blog, this year with the title: Come to the Manger Who Will You Invite?
What on earth am I planning some of you may ask? I started Advent last year with a post: Stable, Inn or Welcoming Home – Where Was Jesus Born and Why Does it Matter which suggested that Jesus’ family was not abandoned in a stable but was surrounded by friends and family at his birth. To this birth celebration the shepherds, outcasts from their society, and the wise men, Gentile foreigners were also invited.
The question that stirs in my mind is: Who is welcome at the manger? Who else do we invite to this celebration that may otherwise be ignored or excluded – the prostitutes, the sex traffickers, those in prison, people of other racial backgrounds, other religions, other sexual persuasions, the poor and the homeless, even those we are estranged from. Do we think there is a place for everyone at the manger? If so how do we extend that invitation so that these people feel welcome?
Next week our new devotional A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel for Advent To Lent will be available for order. One of the reflections in it is on the French custom of santons:
Santons are, literally, “little saints.” Part of a typical French Nöel crèche (Christmas Nativity scene), santons come in work clothes to visit the Holy Family. They bring the Christ Child presents they have made or grown, hunted or sold. They perform or offer simple gestures of thoughtfulness…..
The shepherds summon all Provençal villagers. They bring their unique gifts to honor the newborn child: the baker (or his son) with typical Provençal breads like la banette and le pain Calendal (a round country loaf marked with a cross and baked only at Christmastime), the vegetable merchant, the cheese vendor, the basket maker, the wine grower, the humble woman or man who brings only a bundle of sticks for a fire to keep the baby warm.
A poor old man, who thinks he has nothing to give the Baby, holds his lantern and offers to light the way for others. His gift of thoughtfulness and courtesy earns him a place in the scene.
I love this idea of all our neighbours, those we enjoy and those we don’t want to have anything to do with, clustered around the manger, invited into that place of intimate hospitality with God. So lets create our own “santons” this Advent and Christmas season, santons of words not figures of clay. Lets talk about some of the people we imagine gathering around the manger with us. Lets help others to see the embracing love of God for all of humankind in the birth of the child Jesus.
This is your invitation to participate in the Advent/Christmas series on Godspace. Would you like to contribute a blog post? Write a poem or even paint a picture of what the gathering around the manger could look like? If so please leave a comment on this post, or email me. And please invite your friends.