Over the years our family has developed quite a collection of Nativity Scenes – out of wood, wire, ceramic, and even palm leaves – all depicting that same frozen moment of time of just after the birth of Jesus. Around this time the boxes are brought up from the basement, the pieces unwrapped and then each put in their place on the mantel or the shelves around our home.
What strikes me is the wide range of expressions of that event. The Guatemalan Jesus is swaddled in bright fabric, the Ugandan Jesus has distinct African features, while the Italian Jesus looks like a very small adult with arms commandingly outstretched. In each case the reality has been shaped by the perceptions of the artist.
We all want Jesus to be a certain way, and oddly the Bible seems to provide enough latitude for that to be so – otherwise how would we end up with such a wide variety of denominations across the spectrum all claiming to worship ‘the same’ Jesus.
There are a couple of occasions in the stories about Jesus’ life where the question actually comes up. Once, after he calmed the waters his friends asked “who is this man?, or later on even Jesus asks them “who do you say I am?”
I am honestly not sure who Jesus is, or who he was supposed to be when he was born. Sure, I read the definitive statements in the Bible, but those don’t actually come from Him, they come from people trying to figure out Him. Jesus allowed others to define him, but he didn’t spend much time on it himself.
You have to assume, as I look at one of the little scenes in my living room with the shepherds and the wise men, and even Mary and Joseph, at the time they were asking that same question – Who is this little guy?
from "An Examined Life" | December 2 2009