I have a pet peeve with most nativity sets. Some pastors are bothered by the wise men around the manger, since they technically didn’t arrive until Jesus was back at Joseph’s “house” (Matthew 2:11), but my issue is bigger than that. I’m bothered by how bored everyone looks.
Seriously, have you ever seen a happy nativity set? Ever seen ceramic shepherds with massive smiles on their faces or Joseph looking like he’s going to burst from joy? Probably not. Instead, we get Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and sheep all looking like they’re watching Bethlehem’s 17th annual paint-drying contest. Their expressions are quietly thoughtful at best and glazed-over bored at worst.
But that’s not the real story. Luke’s gospel gives us good news of great joy, angels lifting up voices in praise, shepherds hurrying off to find Jesus (and spreading the word once they do), bystanders who are amazed at the message, and a whole bunch of loud verbs like “praising” and “glorifying” God (Luke 2:10-20). The only quiet one in the story seems to be Mary, who treasures up all these happy moments and ponders them in her heart.
So don’t fall into the nativity set trap. Remember that what happened in Bethlehem is worth smiling about. It’s worth shouting and singing and dancing about. A Savior has been born for you. He is the Messiah, the Lord!