In the biblical story about the birth of Jesus, an angel appears to shepherds and shares “tidings of great joy.”
Those “tidings” did not refer to Black Friday sales on large-screen televisions.
We all know that. Unfortunately, by this time in the holiday season, most are us are so caught up in shopping, wrapping, decorating and more shopping that it’s difficult to remember the focus of the original tidings.
Cargill United Methodist Church hopes to bring people back to the source of the good news with a live Nativity from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14-15.
Visitors will see the manger with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph along with shepherds and perhaps a few angels. Animals are part of the scene, and this year organizers expect sheep, goats and camels.
People can either drive by the Nativity or they can park, walk around the scene and interact with the animals.
Inside will be hot cocoa and cookies, crafts for kids and a storyteller.
The congregation has organized the Nativity for many years as a gift to the community, said the Rev. Susan Lockman, lead pastor at Cargill.
“It’s the true meaning of Christmas,” Lockman said. “It’s our gentle reminder that God chose to be born into our world and enter into our lives. It’s the birth of love, and to open ourselves up to that anew.”
It’s also a reminder that the people in the Bible story were real, not storybook characters, she said.
A few years ago, Lockman brought in pictures of the Holy Land for a confirmation class. She showed the students photos of Bethlehem and what a manger looked like.
“One of the students said to me, ‘Pastor Susan, do you mean that this is a real place?’” Lockman said. “We can all get caught up in that once-upon-a-time feeling, but this is a historical character. It’s a reminder of the realness of God choosing to enter into our lives.”
For believers, God’s decision to bring his son into the world in a manger—and to tell the good news to shepherds first—is significant, Lockman said.
“The shepherds were outcasts. They were very humble, lowly people. But they were the first to hear,” she said. “God chose them. Jesus came for the least and the last. That’s to whom the good news was shared first.”
For anyone feeling overwhelmed by holiday consumerism and darkness, for those feeling least and last at this time of year, that gift is for them, too.