For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I had to do a double take. When Faith, my oldest granddaughter, was only three, she started a Christmas family tradition, and it all began with her playing with our nativity set. First, the family nativity set was purchased way back when we had two daughters when they were three and four years old. Each year we would go to the attic and bring down the Christmas decorations. And there, in its original box, now tattered by the years, sat the nativity set. We bought it from Sears and Roebuck for about thirty dollars and trust me back then, that was a lot of money. Through the years the angel lost his or her wings several times and more than one head was knocked off. Always, a little glue fixed the injury…at least more or less.
As the years passed and the injured players grew in number, let’s say we were just a little less careful with the old nativity set. When Faith came along it was just natural that she wanted to play with the nativity set and that was fine. Now for part two. Being from the South and loving history, somewhere, somehow, we ended up with an ornament of Scarlet O’Hara from the movie “Gone with the Wind.” She was dressed in a curvy, clingy red dress that probably went a little too far south in the front. Well, each year she ended up on the Christmas tree. And then it happened.
That year, probably around 2003 or 2004, Faith was playing with the nativity set and somehow or another she spied Miss Scarlet on the tree. She simply saw it as another member of the cast. So, she took Scarlet off the tree and as she played, she included her in the cast of characters. When she was done, she just let Miss Scarlet stay in their midst. There was Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, the Innkeeper (I’m not sure why he was invited), and a shepherd boy, along with several barnyard friends and standing right in the middle was Scarlet.
Well, sometime later I was walking by and happened to glance at the nativity set. I went down the checklist to make sure everyone was there and then I spotted her. There was Miss Scarlet curvy, clingy dress and all. My first thought was, “What in the world is Miss Scarlet doing in Bethlehem? What is a girl like her doing with Jesus?” I was just about to remove her when it occurred to me. I realized that if anyone was supposed to be there it was Miss Scarlet. I realized that she was the whole point of the story. Jesus came for people who had messed up in life. People who had made mistakes, people like her, like me and like you. That is why Jesus came in the first place. He knew that the religious elite wouldn’t give Him the time of day. But the ordinary, broken people…well, they got it.
So, Miss Scarlet stayed and for the past 16 or 17 years, I still go to the attic and get the decorations down. I still find the old, tattered box and bring it down too. I carefully unpack the cast of that night in Bethlehem and there among the characters is Miss Scarlet. Each year, I make sure she was a prominent spot in the nativity and each year that reminds me that she is what Christmas is all about.
You see, the Bible tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son, His only Son to be born into a broken world. He did it because He loved us so much and amazingly, He said if we would believe in Him, put our trust in Him, we could call Him Father, our Dearest Daddy. He also promised that every Christmas for forever we could be with Him. Amazing.
I am so grateful that Faith taught me an important lesson that Christmas season so many years ago. It is one of my favorite stories and one of my favorite Christmas traditions. And each year, Miss Scarlet reminds me that broken people are always welcomed home for Christmas into God’s loving arms. He doesn’t care if we are dark or light skinned, rich or poor, or part of the social elite or socially broken. He just loves us and that is amazing.
So, this Christmas season, if you have a nativity set or even if you don’t, remember the story about how Miss Scarlet got invited into the story and that you are, too. Especially this Christmas when things are so crazy, why not find yourself right there in the cast of characters, resting right next to Baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph and Miss Scarlet would remind you that one thing is sure…He’s got this.