Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Joy of the Epiphany

There's alot I want to say about this picture.

It was taken outside a small Methodist church in Freeville, NY, the same church where my siblings and myself were baptized. It held my nursery school and had green carpet inside. I remember the bells ringing every Sunday and, to this day, when the bells in our parish ring, I am reminded of this little church.

I don't know if this nativity was up in the years before or since. I just remember it when I was a toddler, about three years old. Every Sunday I would want to come and stand in the manger. I remember the plastic figures, just my size, and snow falling on baby Jesus. I wanted to pick up the doll and take him home with me, but he was wired into the mager.

I loved that manger.

Maybe it was because I am a baby addict. Maybe it is because I love dolls. Or maybe it was because it shows Jesus, as a baby, as a child, just like me.

That's what the Christmas season is about- God's love for us manifesting itself in a child, a tiny baby. It's love at its basic, most pure and fragile.

CGS teaches us that children are born with an innate knowledge and understanding of God. I think that's why children love Christmas. It's not about the presents or Santa or new toys. That's just part of it. The real knowledge, they know, is about the everlasting, steadfast love that was born that day- a baby. A child. Just like them.

There's alot I want to say about that picture. Time and time again I have tried to write an essay about it. About my grandmother, who died several years later- the grandmother who my daughter is named for. About the snow. About the minister who watched me, and later meantioned me in a sermon. She thought, perhaps, that a plastic, light up nativity showed everything that was wrong with a commercial Christmas. Then she saw a small child watching it and knew- yes, the child sized, plastic nativity was showing people the real humanity of a child born in a stable.

Today it Epipany, the day the Wise Men came from the East to see the baby Jesus. In Italy, Pope B16 visited a children's hospital and spoke to the parents, staff and children:

When we look to the manger of Bethlehem, to the crib, what do we see? Who do we find? There's Mary, there's Joseph, but above all, there's a baby -- small, in need of attention, of care, of love: that baby is Jesus, that baby is God himself who wanted to come to earth to show us how much he loves us; it's God who made himself a child like you to tell you that he's always nearby, to say to each one of us that every baby, every child, carries his face.

What we see in the smallest, most helpless of us- children- is the face of Jesus, laying in the manger. Yes, covered in snow. Maybe even plastic. But it is the face of pure love, God's love for us.

There's alot I want to say about that picture. But I think the joy in my face, the joy of looking at that image of the Baby Jesus, a child like myself, says enough.

Happy Epiphany folks!

(click on the photo to enlarge and view the whole picture)

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