I’ve been setting up various Nativity scenes for Christmastime since I was a little kid. I had a wooden one that was mine to set up, that all of the pieces fit together as a puzzle; another of my favorites was from Chile, and depicted the various players in the scene as non-Caucasian. But every time I’ve set up the scenes, it’s always been the way it should be… You know, with the various pieces facing the viewer so that everyone can see their beautiful character, right?
My wife saw it before I did. My six-year-old had been “assigned” the job of setting out this nativity scene under the Christmas tree that he decorated. Look at it again. Did you notice it at first? Do you see that all of the characters are looking at the baby Jesus?
Suddenly, keeping the main thing the main thing takes on a whole new perspective. What if my six-year-old gets it right? What if it’s not about the nativity in the way I thought it was supposed to be? Now, for the record, I know Christmas is first and foremost about Jesus in my heart, but setting up Nativity scenes? My perspective has been changed!
My son “reframed Christmas” for me, which was actually not the only time it happened last week. The other time was watching Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. Allen plays a politically and ethically conservative patriarch who must deal with his grandson’s left-leaning father. Allen’s Mike Baxter doesn’t understand why Evan (Flynn Morrison) doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas, but finally discovers that Evan’s absentee father blew in once a year with odds’n’ends he picked up at the convenience store as “Christmas presents.” The impact of not having a father, and of that father figure thinking those were “gifts,” has jaded Evan, and suddenly, Baxter realizes that the context of the Christmases we’ve experienced impact how we see Christmas itself.
Reframing again. What if we reframed our own perspective of Christmas to recognize that not everyone sees it the way we do? That the person who is grumpy in line at the store, or in the parking lot, or, gasp, in church, is actually struggling with their family situation (in the past or waiting for them at Christmas dinner), or their financial situation, or the loved one they lost around this time x number of years ago? What if we honed in on the good news that was delivered to the angels two thousand years ago, that there was a savior who came for everyone?
Who could save us from our pasts, from our current struggles, from our poor choices and the poor choices of others, and remind us that “those who mourn will be comforted”?
What if church was the place where they met that savior?
I know my Christmas has been reframed. I know some kids who are not going to experience Christmas if my church doesn’t do something about it. I know that their view of Christmas is different because of what has happened (or hasn’t happened) in their lives. But I know that church can be a place that their view of Christmas changes, that they can be loved and learn to love in return. I know that this Christmas might be the first time they experience a little bit of that peace promised to the shepherds.
It’s not the end of the reframing process, merely the beginning. But that’s the way change starts, isn’t it? With one star, one moment’s piece, one vision, one church.
Who will you reframe Christmas for this year?