It is OK if your Christmas is small. It is OK if you don’t have a big musical production, or candle-lit processions, or meaningful sermons and verses read in sacred tones. It is OK if the house is not decorated and covered in lights, or even if you don’t have a home to decorate. It is OK if you don’t have a family gathering – or even if there is one place setting missing. It is OK if you don’t have the finest gifts, and even if you don’t have any gifts at all. It is OK if you – YOU – are not big enough to make all those things happen, this year, or any year.
The first Christmas didn’t have any of those things.
Long before that night, Mary had seen an angel. Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, and the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt at the presence of the baby in Mary, though Mary was less than 3 months pregnant. Tiny unborn children were the first to celebrate Christmas.
Joseph was a just carpenter, and Mary was just a girl. Neither were wealthy or well known. Joseph and Mary were travelling – with just one donkey – when Mary went into labor. She didn’t have her family around her; no mother or sister or midwife to help her. They couldn’t even get a room for the night; the baby Jesus was born in an animal stall. Was the straw even clean? Was there fresh water? Were they warm enough? But they had the strength of their faith. They knew they were following what God had set up for them to do.
It was just the three of them that night, at first. Then the shepherds showed up, saying that God had sent angels to them, proclaiming the Christ’s birth. Just a few dudes in a field full of sheep, but they were the ones God chose to hear and share the news. (It wasn’t until much later that the traveling wise men visited, bearing gifts.)
But that first night? It was small. It was humble. It probably was not at all what anyone wanted or expected it to be. So why do we still celebrate that night, two thousand years later? Because those few people, in that humble setting, gave what they had to God. And God had a plan for something bigger.
It is OK if your Christmas is small. It is OK if what you have to bring is small, too. When you are tempted to think that it is not enough – that YOU are not enough – think about that first Christmas night. Then bring your humble gifts to God. He has a plan for something bigger.
Here is a tutorial for a very humble nativity scene, to remind you that Christmas doesn’t have to be a fancy production.