It’s Christmas Eve, also the fourth Sunday of the 2017 Advent season. As I have done the past couple of Sundays, I am featuring a nativity set today. Two of them.
I thought about saving one of these for Advent 2018, but I suspect I’ll find other ones to share with you next year. They are pretty common around here.
These scenes are on display in two churches a couple of blocks apart in Freiburg. We had lots of things we probably should have done yesterday, but a trip to Freiburg seemed far more appealing than washing the stairs.
I’m still not sure if I like nativity scenes. They are usually a pretty inaccurate representation of the birth of Jesus. I guess it is the symbolism that is important.
Symbolism is why I preferred the scene at St. Martin’s church to the one on display at Freiburg Cathedral. I went to Sunday school as a child. I know the Christmas Story. I’ve read the Bible passages describing the birth of Jesus, and I am pretty sure there were no penguins.
I don’t know who put the penguins in the nativity scene at St. Martin’s. They could be someone’s idea of a joke, slipped in when no-one from the church was looking. Or, they could be a theological statement.
We celebrate Jesus birth without really thinking about all the implications. After all, we know this story. It doesn’t change from year to year.
To me the penguins are a reminder that the baby Jesus was more than just flesh and blood. He was (and is) God incarnate. That had implications then that still reverberate today. There were no penguins in Palestine on that first Christmas Eve. However, if there had been, they too would have been drawn to the Christ child.
The message of Christmas Eve, the message of Christmas, the message of the penguins, is that Christ is born to be the savior of the world. That is everyone, not just the people in Palestine at that time, but you, and me, and even the penguins of Antarctica.
I wonder if that is the message whomever added the penguins to the nativity scene at St. Martin’s church intended. I hope so.