Countdown to Christmas: Day 9. "Go, Tell It on the Mountain!"
Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
We have a few nativity sets in our home. There’s the Fisher-Price Little People edition. It’s plastic and indestructible, a memento from our kids' toddler years. Then there are a few hand-carved olivewood pieces from my trips to Bethlehem, a bona fide link to Christ’s birthplace. But only one ends up on the mantle: the wooden Willow Tree figurines.
Kelly and I discuss and debate exactly how each figure should be placed. We’re looking at spacing (they can’t be too bunched up), storylines (the Magi clearly belong in their own grouping) and angles (the second Wise Man must be turned just so. Otherwise you’ll see the tiny super glue seam on the back of his neck where he was decapitated after I dropped him one year).
If you want it to look nice, the staging matters. But the divine choreography of the first Christmas is different. It’s in the “lowly manger” that the humble Christ is born. The lowly manger isn’t ornate and it doesn’t have clean lines. It’s rough-hewn and messy. The hay is damp with donkey drool and the edges are clearly splinter hazards.
The stable is not a snow capped, rustic barn from a country music Christmas album cover. There are no strings of Edison bulbs like there were at the farm for your cousin’s wedding. Some historians claim the manger was in the back of cave adjacent to the Bethlehem Inn.
God cares less about how this picture looks on a postcard and more about what it means to the shepherds who came. Christmas isn’t about beauty, though it is beautiful. It’s about proximity.
Why does the manger matter? Because it says Christ meets us where we are. Christ embraces humility because we need a Savior who knows where we live, who refuses to put on airs, who comes with everything to give and nothing to prove.
This is a message worth broadcasting, a missive to shout with a megaphone: “Christ is born close to us! His lowly birth sets the stage for his humble life and simple message. He walks through the dark and the dirt and the mess with us to redeem every cracked part of our lives. We’re not alone. We’re not forgotten. We’re not abandoned. Tell it everywhere you can!”