WHERE ARE YOU IN THE NATIVITY SCENE?
Many spiritual communities will be celebrating Christmas in a variety of ways this season. Many individuals will come to a holiday service seeking something. Scholars of theology and denominations have identified 4 primary arenas of Christian spirituality. These blend together, are present in all communities and predominate in some. The familiar nativity scene can symbolize these four pathways to the Christ child, to an experience of the Divine. For clarity, we look at each as an experience in community and as a path we might walk individually.
Mary's devotion to God and Joseph’s devotion to Mary point us to the path of the heart. In these communities there is an overwhelming feeling of loving and being loved, of gratitude and devotion. There are heart opening services filled with praise and emotional energy. As one of the holy family, you are following a path of love and belonging.
The presence of the three kings, the scientists of their day, reveals the path of the mind—theology, knowledge, science, the path of doubt and inquiry. Doctrine, creeds, liturgy, references to the natural world and interfaith activities would be important in such a community along with philosophy and psychology. As one of the “wise ones”, you are following careful thought, tradition and investigation of the natural world.
Shepherds are always present. Much of the work of shepherds was done in the quiet of darkness--- paying attention, waiting, listening, watching for what might pose a threat to their flock. These activities are much like the prayerful practice of meditation-- paying attention to thoughts and being aware of the inner world of Spirit. Communities with this orientation would be grounded in both intercessory and contemplative prayer and spiritual experience. As a shepherd, you are following the mystical path of prayer and the inspiration of angels.
The fourth path is suggested by the manger and the stable itself which we will assume belonged to the innkeeper. The innkeeper was very busy with the demands of a sold out inn. When he impatiently opened his door and saw Joseph and Mary in need, he stopped, made room for them in his world and did what he could for them. This is the spiritual path of selfless service, compassion, caring for and helping meet the needs of those less fortunate. Communities following this path would lift up social issues, peace and justice concerns and our responsibility to each other. As the innkeeper, you are following the guidance of being in community.
Perhaps you have walked these paths and can identify with each piece. So, in some sense, the entire nativity scene is within you. The pieces can clarify and call you to your personal path--what your mind, heart and body recognize as your faith, your people, your journey to the openness, innocence and vulnerability of a child come to demonstrate the fulfillment of humanity’s potential and purpose.
Rev. Nat Carter, Interim Minister, Unity Victoria Spiritual Community, www.unityvictoria.ca