I bought myself a new Nativity this year (2014), and it is my second smallest one. It is only the size of an actual matchbox, but when I slide the box open, the tiny perfection takes my breath away. I am amazed at the precision and detail carved in the thin layers of wood. There are even tiny bunnies in the scene, and a bird flying by. It is laser-cut, made by focused beams of light guided by a purposeful hand.
I was thinking about that little Nativity during worship on the Sunday after Christmas. (As Pastor Kristin rightly reminded us, we are able to celebrate Christmas all the way until January 6th!) We were hearing the Christmas story, singing Christmas hymns, and I was looking at the small manger holding a baby doll up on the worship platform. Dani Bossler’s singing and Pat Dettloff’s guitar accompaniment gave us a beautiful version of “Mary Did You Know?” The words to that song (“When you kiss your sleeping baby, you kiss the face of God”) started me thinking about the irrelevance of size.
How is it possible for so much God-ness, so much holiness, so much Creator-of-the-Universe-ness to be contained in the body of a human infant? We who are used to the story are sometimes not even startled by it, but really, it begs the question: how is this possible? And then I remembered that science tells us that size is really irrelevant to considering complexity. Tiny mitochondria in our body’s DNA affect the health and functioning of the entire system- each one of us. The spiral patterns found in seashells and the flower petal arrangement of a daisy are found throughout our natural world and in the patterns of galaxies. By that measure, it is not unreasonable that the Creator of all could put on the body of human creation. Why God would want to do that is another question! (For the record, I believe the answer to that questionis most simply answered: Love.)
Going back to the question of size, or rather the irrelevance of size in comparison to complexity or value: What does this mean in terms of our lives and how we live them? In considering this, I am reminded that the power of our actions has results that can more far-reaching than we think. Our small courtesies and kindnesses can change the course of another person’s day or even life. Our small angers and rude actions or unthinking words can poison relationships, just as patience and forgiveness can build them up.
It can seem impossible to change the world for the better (or worse), but we are, in reality, doing it every day.
My tiny Nativity brings me joy when I look at it and consider its tiny perfection. After more than 40 years, the realization that God loves me enough to become human for the sake of my soul still brings me to grateful tears. There are no “small” ways to show love or “small” meannesses. There is only Love or the absence of Love. The God Who Came as Baby reminds us that all of our lives have meaning. All our actions have meaning for the world we live in and the people we meet and live with. As God sees the world, small and big have nothing to do with value.
May the Baby in the manger remind us that our smallest actions can have big ripples in our world. I hope to begin choosing more wisely. How about you?
-Janet Blank, Faith Formation Coordinator