On New Year’s Day Doug and I begin to take down our Christmas decorations. I leave most of our Nativity sets up through January 6, Epiphany Day, but I did decide to take one down. It was sitting on my dresser. Our cats like to jump up on that dresser when they are trying to convince us to get up to feed them early in the morning and I was worried they would knock off the figures. This is an old set, the one that sat in the living room in my childhood.
Of course, it was as I carried the figures downstairs that I dropped the Baby Jesus and he broke. “The Little Lord Jesus has lost his sweet head,” I sang to Doug as I showed him the pieces you can see in this picture. Gorilla Glue to the rescue, Jesus was resurrected (or re-capitated?) later and safely stored away for another Christmas.
When I posted the picture of Jesus having lost his head on Facebook, several people commented with stories of broken figures from their own Nativities: an angel with a broken wing, a wise man with a loose head, a cow with a broken horn. And I thought about how this tells us a truth about Jesus’ incarnation. Incarnation means to be made flesh. When Jesus was born, God came among us to share our human condition. That means that his body was subject to the same frailties to which all human bodies are subject: skinned knees and stuffy noses, hunger and sleepiness, and in the end death as a result of being nailed to the cross. Jesus didn’t come surrounded by bubble wrap to protect him from the wear and tear of life. He faced all the trials of life. “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases,” the prophet Isaiah said of the Suffering Servant that Christians have long understood to describe Jesus.
As we enter a new year, we look back at the old one that was so filled with trouble and say “good riddance.” Of course, even with the approval of vaccines for the coronavirus, we are still months away from truly getting the pandemic under control. A lot of people are still going to get sick. Some will die. Our church will continue to carry on in a virtual world in our effort to do the least harm possible. And Jesus walks with us in all this trouble, for he lays his sweet head in the truth of human existence.