Nativity scenes rarely stop traffic. But that’s exactly what happened in Philadelphia —twice— this month. To be fair, it wasn’t the nativity scene itself that stopped traffic. It was one of the animals, a cow, that wandered away from a live nativity —twice— when she figured out how to open a gate. Despite the minister’s best efforts, he didn’t have a prayer of stopping the 1,500 pound animal once she got moving. The cow wasn’t particularly excited or aggressive during her “two sets of adventures on snowy downtown streets.” She was just persistent. So, after her second escape she was replaced with a younger, less persistent understudy.
It’s a great image for Christmas. Not because of the nativity scene itself. It’s a great image because Christmas is all about God’s simple, unadorned persistence. Christmas is about God’s determined love for creation. At Christmas we discover that God’s love doesn’t arrive in bursts of magic or overwhelming force. We learn that God’s love arrives in a scene so humble and unimpressive that it would never have stopped traffic: a poor couple laying their baby in a feeding trough. Sure, we have stories about angels, shepherds, and wisemen from afar — but those stories just emphasize the main point: nobody would have even noticed God’s arrival without such heavenly signs.
This Christmas let me invite you to keep watch for the signs of God’s simple, unadorned persistence. Let me invite you to keep alert! and to stay awake! for the humble, yet persistent signs of God’s love arriving in your life and in the world. We live in a world where God’s arrival rarely stops traffic or makes headlines. Most of the traffic-stopping headlines in our world have to do with trauma or disaster, celebrity spectacles or overwhelming force. In the midst of all those other signs, let’s be watching for the persistent signs of God’s love. And then let’s follow that love in Jesus. Because if our faith is any indication, even though God’s love may be easy to overlook, once it gets moving there’s no force on earth that can stop it.
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday, December 24th at 10 am: Eucharist, Rite I
Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24th at 6 pm: Eucharist, Rite II w/Candlelight
New Year’s Eve, Sunday, December 31st at 10 am: Service of Christmas Lessons & Carols
Feast of Lights, Sunday, January 7th at 3 pm: Ecumenical Epiphany Service at Sacred Heart