I heard someone say once that “familiarity breeds contempt.” It sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true isn’t it? You see or hear something enough times, and when it comes up for the umpteenth time you think, ‘This? Again? No thanks.’ It gets discarded like yesterday’s rubbish.
For many things, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Some things could use discarding anyway. But what happens when it is something that matters? What happens when it is something that needs to remain?
Earlier this year I was on a family holiday in Mexico. As I do most holidays, I try to find a useful souvenir to remember it. I saw so many things, but nothing really caught my eye. That is, until I noticed a number of figurines out of the corner of my eye, arranged, as it were, around a smaller figure. I looked closer and realized it was the nativity scene. You know, Mary, Joseph, wise people, shepherds and animals all crowded around baby Jesus. It was like no nativity I had seen before, and I had seen many. The colours, clothing, and nationalities represented were far from the plainly dressed, brown haired, blue-eyed Caucasian ensemble I knew so well. This was it! I had found my souvenir, but it was much more than that.
As I stare at the colourful statuettes, now displayed on my shelf in much colder Canada, I am forced to rethink what has become so familiar to me. And I confess that that familiarity has bred some level of contempt. The nativity and all it represents had lost its wonder and become simply another thing I saw at a certain time every year [I was blessed enough to see/hear it this many times]. Sometimes it takes a completely different perspective to restore the spark in the familiar. But what’s so amazing about the nativity and what it represents, anyway?
There’s one verse that sums it up well for me, and that’s Matthew 1:23. It says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Wait a minute. God, with us? God, the creator of all, wanting to be with us? Wow. This short verse dismantles all arguments that God is distant and unfeeling. God chose to become a vulnerable baby, needing to grow and learn in this world, in order to relate to us in a way we could understand.
As if this wasn’t awesome enough in itself, it also gives us a taste of what is to come. Revelation 21:3 says, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” Matthew 1:23 foreshadows Revelation 21:3, giving us something to remember and something to look forward to. We are not alone in this world, and we anticipate an even closer and more tangible relationship with the God of all.
Isn’t that an amazing Christmas message worth salvaging from contempt?