Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is it good and is it right?

As I sat in church this morning I was distracted by a rather large Christmas tree, prominently displayed to the left of the advent wreath.  As I sat there, listening to the pastor, I was bothered by it. It wasn't gaudy, it was actually quite tastefully decorated.  What bothered me was its placement, right up front, overshadowing the advent wreath.
Before the service I had noticed the nativity scene set up in the foyer...The wise men and their camel were set up above the front entrance, the shepherd and his sheep huddled by a large rock tucked away, almost unnoticed in a corner by the stairs, and Mary and Joseph with little baby Jesus were tucked away by the stairs to the balcony, a rough looking shed behind them, with an angel positioned to appear that it was singing the good news.
It was the same nativity that we had used at church for years and it was comfortingly familiar. I was however,  delighted to see it spread out, not all crowded together.  I'm curious to see if the shepherd will move to the manger for Christmas, and whether or not the wise men will show up at Jesus's side for epiphany. (Our activity scene at home is very mobile throughout the house during the Christmas season with characters moving as we re-enact the story...more on that later.)
Anyhow, the juxtaposition of the Christmas tree in the sanctuary and the nativity spread throughout the foyer/vestibule, bothered me.  What was a symbol of the world doing in a sacred space? And why was something sacred put out where we exchange small talk?  It bothered me enough that I hardly heard what the pastor was saying in his sermon (Sorry Pastor Kramer!).   The more I thought about it though, the more I realized  how appropriate it was.
So often we compartmentalize our lives.  We separate things into different categories.  Some things belong to the world, others belong to the sacred.  Some parts of our lives belong at work, others at home.  Our faith gets to shine in some areas and is hidden under a bushel in others.  Christmas trees belong in our homes, nativity scenes belong in churches.
I'm not convinced that this is good or right.  As Christians, we are called to share our faith; to go and tell.  We can't do that if we keep our lives in compartments.  Maybe it is good and it is right for the Christmas tree to share the spotlight with the advent wreath and for the Holy Family to look on as children run and play and grown-ups exchange small talk over cups of coffee.
Maybe, it is time for our faith to meet our world and for our world to meet our faith.

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