Earlier this week, I was sitting on my recliner, relaxing
after a long day. As I sat there, I turned over to my nativity set and I
noticed that someone was missing.
It wasn’t the wise men. They were there to the side of the
nativity “traveling” towards the manger. It was not the animals finding shelter
from the cold. The cow, the sheep and
even the lamb were all there huddled up trying to stay warm. It was not even
Mary and Joseph. They were there standing next to the manger. And even though
the manger was empty, it wasn’t Jesus who was missing. I knew where he was,
hiding until the 24th when he would be laid in his manger.
No, none of the “biblical” characters mentioned in either
Matthew or Luke were missing. But as I stared at my manger, I realized that a
very important someone was missing: the devil. As I came to that realization, I
got very concerned as to why he was not there and decided I needed to find him.
Now, before I lose you, let me explain the whole story behind
the devil being there. Growing up, my Christmas was always a little bit
different from typical American traditions.
For starters our food was very different. Of course, we
usually had a turkey or a ham, but we also had a variety of sides that are not
typical American Christmas dishes. We always had a white cheesy pasta that was
a family recipe passed down for years. On my aunts stove, there was always a
big pot of menudo (cow tripe soup) that while it may sound gross, is absolutely
delicious! We would also have three types of tamales at every Christmas party: red,
green, and dulce (sweet).
We also had extra Christmas services we attended every year.
These services are called Las Posadas. In English, posada means housing, as in
can you give me housing for the night. Las Posadas are a service in
which the church re-enacts what it may have been like for Mary and Joseph to go
around Bethlehem asking for a place to stay the night and give birth to Jesus.
While every church celebrates these services differently, at the church we
attended, we used to all meet outside the church. The choir director would then
hand out song sheets and tell us to follow his lead. We would then go around to
three different doors around the outside of the church. The choir director
would knock on the door and we would start singing a back and forth
conversation between us (Mary and Joseph) standing outside the door and the
pastor (the innkeeper) standing inside the door. We would sing stuff like “in
the name of God we are seeking a place to stay for we are too tired to keep
walking.” Each time we knocked, the innkeeper would sing back to us and tell us
to go away because there was no room at the inn.
Over and over again we would get turned down. And just as we
were all ready to give up, we would knock on one more door. At that last door,
the innkeeper would recognize Joseph and Mary. When the priest would open the
door, we would all walk into a warm room with lots of food and celebrate the
fact that someone offered Mary and Joseph a place to sleep.
Very different traditions, huh? But what about the devil?
Along with these traditions, the nativity played a major role
as well. In Mexico, the nativity is a major part of culture. You go anywhere,
whether it be a school, a government building or a house and people have
nativity scenes everywhere. I remember many Christmas Eve’s, eating dinner as a
family, then gathering around the nativity and placing Jesus in his manger.
This has always been a big deal in my family.
But in Mexico, we add a character to this scene: the devil.
He is always there standing at a distance eerily watching this scene. He is
always depicted differently but he is always there. My families devil is
standing next to what looks like an old man hiding in a cave holding a rosary.
It might sound strange to you, but I absolutely love looking at the devil every
time I stare at my nativity.
Let me show you what my nativity looks like:
While the scriptures do not talk about the devil looking into
the manger scene, I like to believe that perhaps the devil really was looking
in on the manger on the night Jesus was born.
Let me explain why by pointing out some things you can see if
you look closely at the devil figure of my nativity.
It is almost as if the devil has been harassing humanity, so
much so that humanity finds itself hiding in this cave hoping to find shelter
from the devil. What I love about this imagery is that even in his distress,
the person hiding in the cave is holding on to a rosary. (For you skeptics out
there, yes, I know the timeline is not accurate. I know that this person having
a cross in his hands before Jesus was even born is wrong, but just go with me
for a second).
At the very moment the devil has humanity cornered in a cave,
the very moment he seems to have creation right where he wants it, the devil
instead looks away. In that moment, when it seems like evil is about to win,
something happens that takes the devils attention away from his power over
humanity and instead focuses on Jesus birth.
It is almost as if in that moment, the devil realized he had
lost all the power he thought he had over humanity. It is almost as if in that
moment, the devil realized he had been defeated. It is almost as if in that
moment, the devil changed his focus from tempting people and instead begins to
come up with a plan to tempt Jesus.
All of a sudden, the threatened humanity becomes free and now
the one being threatened is the devil.
In this season of advent (or almost Christmas), I can’t help
but wonder what the devil in the nativity scene does in my life. Do I find
peace in knowing that the tempter no longer has power over me? Do I find joy in
knowing that our champion over evil has entered the world? Do I find hope
through my struggles knowing that there is no longer anyone standing in front
of the cave blocking me from experiencing life to its fullest? Do I feel the
love that is exuded in this manger scene knowing that God loves me so much that
he was willing to take on flesh to empower me to overcome the struggles of this
Let me ask this in a different way. What I see in my nativity
is that Jesus entering the world makes evil tremble. Does that truth make a
difference in my life or not?
It does in mine. And I hope it can in yours as well.
When I look at my nativity and see the devil put all of his
attention on Jesus, I am reminded that I am a victor over my sin, regret and
shame because Jesus has entered this world in human flesh. Because of this
birth, I know that depression and anxiety have no power over me. Because of
this birth, I know that I am no longer a slave to fear. Because of this birth, I
know that disease and sickness, even if it takes our life, have no ultimate
power over us. And more importantly, because of this birth, I know that death
itself has no more power over me.
James 2:19 says this: You believe that God is one, you do
well. Even the demons believe – and shudder. God has entered this world to give
us power over darkness. And because of that, our darkness, like the devil in my
nativity, shudders because it knows it
has lost all power over you.
I pray that this advent season, you may be able to imagine
your darkness standing there at a distance, looking at the manger, shuddering in
fear. Your darkness shudders because it knows that through Jesus, you now have
power over it. The tables have been reversed and because of this child being
born, you are given the power over your darkness.
Whatever darkness you are carrying this Christmas season,
know that Jesus is offering you power over it. I hope you embrace it. I hope
you take it. I hope you live into it. Your darkness knows it has been defeated.
Will you begin to live like that darkness has lost all power over you?
Together on the journey,