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Physical Distance?

At first glance, it looks like pretty much any other outdoor decoration display until you take a closer look and discover that all the figures are appropriately spaced at least six feet or more apart. There even appears to be rope between the characters, just in case an inflatable reindeer took a notion to start crowding Old Saint Nick.


ALL the figures are distanced, even the ones in a traditional Nativity scene. Each plastic molded shepherd stands a safe distance from the Newborn King. The angels aren't bumping up against the donkey and the sheep and the cows, and the three Wise Men parked their camel and left the poor joker all by himself. (An aside - why is there only one camel and there's three Wise Men? Who had to walk?) None of the Magi are peering, and breathing, over the shoulder of a stooping shepherd. It looks like the checkout line at the grocery store.


Get this - there's ample space between even Mary and Joseph, and the Baby Jesus lies in His manger in a wide expanse of green grass. He's out in front, all by Himself.


I get it. Perhaps it's a statement, maybe just an offbeat take on our current circumstances. It's a twist, a bit humorous, but . . . it's just all wrong.


First, Mamas and Daddies don't kick back a safe distance from their offspring and watch from afar. They cuddle and hold, comfort and protect. I'd always been fascinated that our traditional Nativity scenes have a sleeping Baby and both parents are staring at Him in the manger, just watching Him sleep. Then, we had children and I understood. Sometimes, you just can't take your eyes off them.


Second, and more importantly, Bethlehem is the antithesis of physical or social distancing, at least theologically speaking. God came near. As the gospel of John puts it, "The Word became flesh and dwelled among us." God wasn't, and isn't, pleased with the separation our sin causes between Himself and His beloved creatures so He zoomed in on a rescue mission. Rather than standing back, He dove right in on that starry night.


That's the one message I most wish the world could hear at Christmas. God loves, and therefore He came. No matter who you are or what you've done, or not done; no matter your failings or shortcomings or sins, He came for you. It doesn't matter what you look like and it doesn't matter how big your house is, or even if you have one. It doesn't matter what's in your bank account or how bad you've messed up.


If you're a human being, that Baby - the Baby, God Himself - is searching for you. Not to scream at you, nor to berate you, but to tell you that He loves you enough that He not only came in a manger, but that He went to a Cross for you. And He wants to live not a comfortable six feet apart from you, but right inside your heart.


Now, that's the best news of all. Merry Christmas!