Advent: Seeking and Serving Christ in All Persons
I don’t have too many memories of Advent from my childhood (the sense of waiting and preparation that I recall as a child came from the more secular concerns about new toys and a holiday meal!) but we did have a crèche, and it was put out in the living room with great ceremony every year.
It was nothing fancy – a dime-store manger with a ceramic neo-Renaissance style Holy Family, plastic animals, and a handful of straw that typically was strewn throughout the house by the end of Christmas. It was the first decoration that went up for the holidays, and the last to be put away. It was a constant and vital reminder of what we were really celebrating every year. Even when my brother put his Star Wars figures in the manger, or when the dog chewed the plastic sheep (another annual holiday tradition), Jesus, Mary and Joseph were present, central and essential.
Putting out the crèche is still a holiday tradition in my family – or, in my case, the crèches (30-plus, at my most recent counting). I still have the figures from our original manger, but I also have beautiful Nativity scenes from all over the world: Haiti, Ghana, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, India and the Philippines, to name a few. My goddaughter gave me a crèche made from coal that she purchased on a mission trip to Kentucky. My favorite is a Celtic crèche made in the style of pre-Christian stonework. Not authentic by a long shot, but the ancient style feels mysterious and eternal to me.
I love the many countries and communities represented in my home during Advent, so different and so beautiful. I love the fact that the story of Christ’s birth resonates around the world, through many traditions and many cultures. And I appreciate the reminder that Mary and Joseph’s concerns on that fateful night – shelter, food, water, a safe place to give birth – are shared by millions of people on this planet every day, in every country, culture and community.
This year, during Advent, as I wait and prepare, I will remember all of the partners of Episcopal Relief & Development who strive everyday to provide clean water, nutritious food, safe shelter and economic justice in their communities. Our organizational mission is, in part, to respond to God’s call to seek and serve Christ in all persons. As I enjoy this season with my crèches, I’ll try to see all persons in these beautiful and diverse representations of Christ.
Esther Cohen is the Chief Operating Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.
Images: Esther’s crèche collection from around the world.
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