Christmas is full of symbols and characters that inspire us and that we can relate to. We all want to be Santa for someone each year, so we look for needs that we can meet anonymously — just like he would. Some of us relate to Rudolph. We feel different, but know that our difference is just what the people around us need to accomplish their goals. Some of us are the Littlest Angel, so we give our best for Christ even though our offering seems small and humble. Some of us have had or are having a change of heart like Scrooge or the Grinch. Who are you this Christmas?
As I ponder the true meaning of Christmas, I can’t help but delight in the profound comprehensiveness of the characters in the nativity story. Everyone can relate to one or more characters in the story. When we see the birth of Christ through their eyes, it strengthens our own identity and roles.
Due to the uniqueness of the love and sacrifice of the Holy Family, I’m not going to compare any of us to them. It is true that we could each have moments when we have to trust in the Lord for help with our personal missions, and sometimes we don’t feel adequate for what we’re called to do in our lives. But, I think it makes more sense to examine the other characters in the nativity story who honor Christ just like many of us try to do.
The shepherds were the most ready to receive the Christ child. They spent their lives serving and nurturing the flocks and thinking about what was most important in life. When ‘the call’ came to see the Savior, they went straightaway to see Him and proclaim of Him. Is that you?
The Wisemen were smart. They were well read and often sought after for guidance. They had gained all the glories of the world: money, status, power and learning. Have you received some of these things?
They believed in the prophecies they read from the Bible and for years sacrificed their time, their money, their energy and their lives to travel far to visit and worship the Christ child. They were the wise ones of their day. But instead of worrying about what others thought of them and how much they know — as wisemen often do — they focused on gaining more light and truth by seeking out the Christ, no matter how long it took. Are you a wise one?
The sheep didn’t understand everything that was happening, but they felt the spirit of the love of Christ and reverently followed the ones who had an angelic witness and prophesied of His divinity. Are you a sheep?
The inn keepers are sometimes given a bad image. They are often seen as the ones who turned away the Christ child. I don’t think the inn keepers were villains. In fact, I think even the greatest among us could fall into the “inn keeper trap.” This trap is called stress. During this busy time of census, the inn keepers “had a lot on their plates.” They were helping people get lodgings, taking care of details, and putting out the never-ending “fires” that happen when there are many house guests.
The inn keepers would be making food, getting beds ready, answering questions, and trying to keep the inn tidy while so many people were underfoot.
When Joseph came knocking on the inn keeper’s door it was just one more detail to check off the inn keeper’s list. Can you just see the mental list? Answer door and get rid of more work that needs to be done. Check.
The inn keepers were in survival mode. They weren’t evil; just busy. Worshiping and serving the Savior didn’t make it on the list; that’s all. Are you an inn keeper?
The gentle donkey risked his life through fatigue and likely some starvation to carry the holy family and protect the life and ministry of the Christ. He worked hard and didn’t complain. In the story, most people likely see the donkey as a prop, but he actually helped move the work of the Christ forward without being acknowledged. It wasn’t his story. He wasn’t the focus, but he was vital to bringing to pass the full mission of the Savior. He was silent and sturdy, dependable and obedient. Are you the donkey?
No matter which character you resemble most, you can choose who you will be from here on out. We all know who we are meant to be. There is something inside of us that whispers to our hearts the truth of who we are and what God wants us to do with our lives. Happiness comes when we find that piece of our identity and fulfill it.
Identity is a huge part of who we are! It’s about unifying our thoughts and actions with who we know we ought to be. This Christmas, as we live our many roles with love, let us see ourselves as part of Christ’s story. As part of the never-ending lessons learned from that glorious nativity!
The Peck Family