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One of the many Christmas decorations we enjoy each year is our handcrafted nativity set. There are many family traditions and memories connected to these simple, wooden figurines. I vividly remember the first Christmas we set out the set as the centerpiece of our decorations that year.
We were living in a high-rise condominium in the capital city of Quito, Equador and had developed a close friendship with our neighbors, Alfredo and Dinah Perilla, from Columbia. About a week before Christmas, my wife, Becky, was showing Dinah our new nativity scene. With an astonished look on her face, Dinah asked, “Why do you have Jesus in the manger so early? It’s not yet Christmas!” She went on to explain the tradition of the “Novena de Navidad” observed in many Latin American countries.
“La Novena,” as it is called in Colombia, is a nine-day religious practice that helps a family prepare for the arrival of Christmas; and especially, “El Niño,” baby Jesus. Each evening the family gathers around the nativity scene, to read the Bible, pray and sing Christmas hymns. As part of, or at the close of each service, the family adds a different figure or object to the nativity scene. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the family would add the last figure – the One everyone was waiting for – the Christ Child.
We fell in love with this tradition, and decided to make it our own. We would set out the nativity scene early in December, but would not add the baby Jesus until Christmas Eve. This worked well for us, and helped our family keep the real meaning of Christmas in focus. One year however, when it came time to put baby Jesus in the manger, we couldn’t find him. Yes, in the midst of our busyness getting ready for Christmas, we forgot what we did with baby Jesus!
The day after Christmas, as we were cleaning up, we found him. My wife had put the little figurine away in a “safe” place. Since then, we’ve always had a very accessible and memorable place to keep the baby Jesus, until Christmas Eve.
Is it possible we could get so busy with Christmas, and all of our traditions that we forget about Jesus? Do we put him away in a drawer, and forget He is the real meaning and purpose of this holiday season?
The Bible says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)
The focus of Christmas should be on the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, into our world to redeem us from our sins. Is Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebrations this year? If not, why not make Him the guest of honor, and give thanks to God for the amazing gift of His Only Son!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)