For a moment, I thought I ruined the nativity scene. But I think it’s actually terrific. Let me explain.
It all started a couple of years ago with a Christmas gift – it was a tie. It is a nice gift. However, I have difficulty wearing it because I feel compelled to ask everyone, “Hey, can you spot what’s wrong with my tie?”
The problem is, there is a problem.
Can you see it? In this picture it seems there is only one shepherd or only two magi bringing gifts — but that’s because of the folds in the tie. The others are still making it around to the front of the tie.
Sometimes people wonder if that’s a poinsettia and if they would have been growing in that region, or why the angel is holding a bird – I have no idea … or is it an oil lamp? Or why there is only one angel when there should be a multitude of heavenly hosts. All these are good observations.
The problem is the halos. And people almost never see it.
Now I’m not an art historian. But where did we ever come up with the idea of giving a halo to Joseph, Mary and/or the baby Jesus in our artwork? I thought halos are for angels, right? Joseph and Mary are real people. Regular people. Ordinary people. For sure this famous couple are people with faith, terrific examples for us all, but people – nothing more, nothing less. And isn’t the whole point of Christmas that Jesus actually took on our humanity? He didn’t only ‘seem to be human,’ nor did he live with divine super-powers, and he certainly didn’t become an angel.
Spoiler alert, I can’t explain the dual nature of Jesus as a baby. I can only describe it as I understand the details presented in the Bible (see Luke 1:35). Both son of God and son of man, living not out of his divine right, privilege and abilities, but living in faith, relying on the Father & the Holy Spirit (see John 1:1 & 14, Luke 1-4, Philippians 2:5-11 and so many other passages.)
When Christ came into the world, he said … a body you have prepared for me … Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll … and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.excerpts from Hebrews 10:5-10
As the tie story shows, I’m sort of passionate about this. So it comes as no surprise that when I made the Joy/Nativity sign for our front yard this year, I was bound to do some customizing. That is, my design was going to be halo free, and I was going to try and present Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus in a ‘normal’ sort of way. I hoped they would just look natural, like any couple & baby might look.
That’s why I don’t think I ruined the nativity. And I don’t mind if people think Joseph is texting. In fact, it is sort of cool it looks that way. Or maybe he’s sharing that first yawn on instagram. If he had our phones, he probably would be doing just that. And maybe, just maybe, that might help us think about what happened that night in a deeper way.
We don’t need a halo either for God to love us and for Jesus to come into our lives.