Inviting “the Other” to the Manger

The essence of the nativity scene is the startling incongruity of who gathers there. Mary and Joseph don’t belong in that barn. It’s no place for a newborn baby. What angel ever chose such a habitation? Add some pungent shepherds and overdressed magi,* and you’ve got a motley party indeed.

FullSizeRender (10)Yet you could look a long time at the nativities that grace our homes, our churches, and our lawns without seeing any oddness in the figures collected there. Whether made of china, of resin, of plastic, of fabric, of wood, they seem invariably designed so that everyone in it fits. If Mary is made of shiny porcelain with hand-painted tendrils of tawny hair, so is the shepherd, and the wise man. If the donkey is hewn out of olive wood, so is Jesus, and the angel. You look at that scene and there is a pleasing harmony among the figures in terms of size, material, color, effect. No one is out of place. Likeness reigns.

It reminds me of our churches, our circles of friends. Our crèches are a reflection of, and perhaps also give permission for, our desire to surround ourselves with people just like us.

I want to crack that open. Whether it’s our churches, our circles or our crèches, I long for us to reach out toward and welcome those who, at first glance, don’t exactly fit. It’s what I’m certain Jesus would do. Where we are most homogenous, we are least likely to see him.

So, let’s begin. Who, right next door to you, or down the street, doesn’t fit your picture of the “perfect Christmas”? How might you include her in some way as you observe this season? What would it look like to spend time with him, even this afternoon?

I’m asking myself this question even as I ask you.

I’m not sure quite what to do out there.  But in here, at least, I’m making a start FullSizeRender (11)by inviting some new characters to the manger, in this last week before the baby arrives. I’ve always loved that the stable offers a wide-open welcome for us to eavesdrop on the holy labors within. If we’ll let “the other” do that with us, maybe we can begin to make space for him or her in our churches, our activities, our hearts.



*The magi are part of a whole other Christmas story—Matthew’s (Matthew 2)—and arrive probably months or even two years after the stable we visit in Luke’s version of Christmas (Luke 2).


  1. hmmm… this is good. And has me really wondering where I need to do some intentional invitation in the next day or two!

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