“Just to confirm, there will either be a calf or an alpaca?” Overhearing a conversation about the Live Nativity animals I had to pause and share the important observation, “There really weren’t alpacas in first-century Bethlehem.” Neither the Children’s Ministry administrator nor the owner of the local petting zoo seemed to share my concern and continued to discuss the details for our Live Nativity this Sunday.
Just to be clear, there were no alpacas in first-century Bethlehem. I’m sure the town would have been improved by their presence, but sadly it would be a number of centuries before alpacas crossed the Atlantic Ocean. That won’t be the only historical inaccurate aspect of our Live Nativity. Creative license has been exercised. Our carpenter will be using 21st century tools. There will be a very modern 21st century first aid kit on hand as well. We will be blessed by the modern miracles of glue sticks, magic markers, and masking tape. Our frankincense arrived via Amazon delivery rather than overland caravan. Our angel halos are made of tinsel instead of heavenly light. Our manger was made of Pennsylvania cherry harvested from a friend’s yard a few years ago — a far cry from what would have been available.
It will be an imperfect representation of that first Christmas, but I hope it will be a faithful one. The Season of Advent teaches us again and again that God comes close and dwells in the ordinary and the imperfect. God will not stand back because the animals are not historically accurate or if our shepherd’s Aramaic is rusty. God will be among us because we are gathered in God’s name. God will be in the delight over sheep wool and donkey tails. God will be in the beauty of a new ornament made by three-year-old hands. God will be in the notes written to our college students. God will be in the conversations between old friends and in the greetings between new neighbors. God will be praised in our songs, even if they’re a little off key. God will listen to our prayers even if there are a few wiggles and a preemptive “amen.” Just like that first Christmas, God will be in our midst. The promise of Advent is not that everything changes, but rather God chooses to be with us in the midst of everything — even among the alpacas.
All are invited to celebrate the season this Sunday, December 4:
Come between 4:00-5:00 p.m. to the Live Nativity and Advent Workshop to hear the story of Christmas, meet the animals, make some crafts, and enjoy hot chocolate on the front lawn of the church. Please note: The front driveway will be closed between 4:00 and 5:00.
At 5:00 p.m. gather in the Sanctuary for Evening Worship. As a multigenerational community we will sing carols, listen to God’s word, and gather in prayer.