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Mark Conforti: Christmas Décor with More

For many people, the time has arrived for bringing out from storage those oversized plastic bins and worn out cardboard boxes. What will we find inside? Christmas decorations from years gone by.

Whether your decorating is understated or way overboard, your decorations likely have significance. A handmade ornament here and a handed-down wreath there can warm a home quicker than a cozy fireplace. The decorations with the most meaning, however, are the ones retelling the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

I bought a nativity scene just a few weeks before my wife and I celebrated our first Christmas together. It has found a prominent spot in our home every year since. When I saw this particular nativity scene sitting on a store shelf, I immediately felt the tug to buy it. In recent years, I especially love setting up this nativity scene with our children, so that our family can remember together the story of the manger.

Yet the more I look at this nativity scene, or any one for that matter, I am struck at how the full story does not fit. Most nativity scenes will have the Holy Family, an angel, a menagerie of barnyard animals, and some assortment of shepherds and magi. Actually, in an attempt to stick closer to the biblical story, some families place the shepherds near the Christ child first, and then remove them for the magi’s arrival at Epiphany.

What would it look like for our nativity scenes to tell a fuller version of the biblical story?  Soon after Halloween, we could set out a figurine of the prophet Isaiah. Then leading up to Thanksgiving, we can show a truly thankful family: Elizabeth and Zechariah with their baby, John. Finally, when the timing is right to set up the traditional crèche, we can place a hopeful Simeon waiting nearby. And a scheming King Herod lurking in the distance.

Perhaps the story of Christ’s birth has elements we forget, dismiss, or would rather ignore altogether. We tend to rush quickly to that holy night in Bethlehem.  We would do well, however, to slow down, to look around, and to wonder. We just might receive a full measure of Christmas.

The Rev. Dr. Mark Conforti is the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Salisbury.  You can reach him at mark@fumcsalisbury.org

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