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The Monster at the Manger

December 11, 2011

The kids have had so much fun this year playing with all of the nativity sets that we have setting out.  We have our main display with candles in the family room.  We have a small Precious Moments set in Sidney’s room.  We have the Peanuts set.  And we also have the Fisher Price Little People set.  Even though Jackson can correctly pronounce “nativity”, he almost always refers to our nativity sets as “activity” sets.  I don’t know if he just keeps forgetting or if it’s just easier for him to say it that way.  Regardless of the reason, I do think it’s cute.  Be assured that I won’t let him enter into adulthood thinking that is the proper pronunciation.    For now, I’m just enjoying the cuteness of hearing my three-year-old refer to them as “activity” sets.  Let me have my fun : )

It’s been very sweet, and sometimes entertaining, to see what kind of arrangements they come up with, using the different characters that make up each set.  At times, I’ve seen the animals lined up in single file line……..as if waiting in line to see the baby Jesus. At times, I’ve seen all of the characters encircling the manger.  At times, I’ve seen all of the animals corralled  into the stable, with the people outside.  And at other times, I just see Jackson running around the house with one of the characters in each of his hands………adding sound effects and conversations between the two characters as he runs with them.

This great interest that they have taken this year in nativity sets as well as all of our Christmas decorations has been great to see.  Children add an element of joy to Christmas that is priceless.  I absolutely love it.

Having the nativity sets out on display- purposefully out at our kids’ level – has been a great way for them to interactively learn about the wonderful story of Christmas.  They have all become very familiar with the people who were involved in the Christmas story, and they all seem to have a decent grasp on what occurred.

Those of you who know Jackson know that he loves his dinosaurs right now.  He loves them all…….but there are a couple that stand out as his favorites on a consistent basis.  They are not-so-creatively named, “Squishy T-Rex” (because he’s squishy), “Coolest T-Rex Ever” (because he is the biggest and he looks real), and “Green T-Rex” (because, well, take a stab at it – you’ll figure out why).  A couple of days ago, Squishy T-Rex paid a visit to the nativity set in our family room.  This simple act definitely gave me a good laugh at first.  But, after the laughter was gone, I was humbled by the fact that Jackson’s addition of that monster next to the manger was spot on.  Even though he had no idea that what he was doing carried any significance, it was still noticed and appreciated by him mom.  He was just bringing his T-rex to visit baby Jesus.  Nothing more than that.  But it was very symbolic……and biblical.  Had it been a red dragon, it would have been perfect.  But, the gray t-rex still got the point across to me.

So, why was the addition of this dinosaur – this “monster” – significant?

Well, earlier this fall, our minister told a story about how his dad had added a monster – specifically a red dragon – to his mother’s beautiful nativity set one Christmas.  His dad did this because of the words that can be found in Revelation 12:1-9.

The Woman and the Dragon

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

That was why his dad, a New Testament college professor, chose to add the additional character to their nativity set that year.  From the moment Christ was born, evil (symbolized by a red dragon in the passage above) was there.  It was right there from the beginning…….waiting to devour Him in that Bethlehem stable.  And it still continues to try to devour and destroy.

One of the reasons that I tend to shy away from reading Revelation is because of its highly symbolic and, honestly, sometimes frightening language.  I have read it in its entirety.  But, it is so very mysterious, and – for me – hard to understand.  However, passages like this are pretty clear.  The symbolism makes sense to me.  To be honest, until our minister mentioned this passage in his sermon, I had completely forgotten about it.  I was very grateful to be reminded of  its significance.

I wholeheartedly believe that Christmas should be a time of great joy and great thankfulness.  Christmas cheer is highly valued in our home : )  We believe that we should rejoice over the fact that God became man and chose to come to this earth to live and then to die – to save us.  What an indescribable gift!   However, I have been reminded (through our minister’s words and Jackson’s monster placement in our nativity) that there is a dark element to the Christmas story that should be acknowledged.  Evil has always been at work.  It yearns to lead the world astray.  Like a dragon, it hovers.  It seeks to destroy and devour.

There was warfare occurring at Jesus’ birth – a warfare that is not depicted in our Hallmark nativity sets.  The battle of Good vs. Evil was underway – with a baby at the center of it all.

At Christ’s birth, a “monster” was there.  Evil was there.  Darkness was there.  I am making it a priority this season to acknowledge that not-so-pleasant aspect of the Christmas story.  Why?  Because in doing so, I think I am actually allowing myself to rejoice more fully – more completely – over what Christ’s birth means for us.  I am rejoicing anew that He is the Light.

What is the tried and true remedy that we use to help our children when they express a fear of monsters as they lie in their beds at night?   Well, we simply turn on the light.  Right?  It dispels the darkness with ease.  The darkness is scattered and fears are calmed.  In the light, a feeling of safety and security emerges.

The world was (and still is) full of evil and darkness, but a great Light appeared in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago to give us hope.  He dispelled the darkness with ease.  He came to scatter the darkness and to calm our fears.  In Him, feelings of safety and security emerge.

This Christmas, I am rejoicing anew that He is the light………and I am rejoicing anew that the monster at the manger was no match for Him.  Joy to the world, indeed!

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“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2-

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