When I was a baby, on my first Christmas, my family had a very simple nativity set. The world “creche” was one that I would be taught later! That creche sits on my desk in my home office this Christmas when I am fifty-seven. There is as much glue holding it together as plastic, the kind of plastic made in the early sixties that is brittle and sharp when it breaks. I know.
This nativity set, like my life, has been restored more than a few times.
Restoration is not replication. Put differently, you cannot celebrate a thirty-fifth anniversary (next year!) if you do not move past the first, tenth, twenty-fifth, and thirtieth. The great good times of each are never replicated, but (by God’s grace) nothing good is lost, just recollected, and new and greater goods come.
When the people were restored to Judah, there was no king on the throne of David. The old order continued in a new way and if one mourned the glories of the old Temple, then the goodness of the New Temple cannot be experienced. God’s temple will always be in Jerusalem, but eventually not as a building, for all the City will be His temple and God will dwell with man.
This old nativity set sits in a new place, my home office gained as one adult child marries (hurrah for Solomon!) and a room opens up. I miss Mary Kate, but I am glad for this thinkery. I am glad for time with Hope. I am glad Dad is home from the hospital on the mend. I am glad for the new creche downstairs fashioned by artists from Mexico. That set gives me a new way of seeing the Holy Family: many icons to capture even a fraction of that multi-dimensional event.
The new image is better than the old, but the older creche is sacred in memory. The new has supplanted the old at the center of the feast, because the new is better. The old is not, however, forgotten. Instead, as God always does, the new image contains the old and adds to the meaning. The circle grows containing all that was, but not yet all that will be.
The greater nativity set is coming.
Restoration, coming back to Christmas tide, is not replication, because this Christmas contains the two thousand and twenty that have been with the promise of next year. If I let go of last year, I will see the goodness of the new that is coming. Fools think there is a new revelation that supplants the old as if God got saved from the older messages to the new. The dying believe that the old must never be changed, because the old was good. The Christian sees that the old order gives way to the new so we do not make an idol of yesterday’s icon. The old will not contradict any aspect of the old, but will merely expand the goodness.
Chastity and charity will grow. There will not be a new moral revelation, but a deepening of the old truth. The Blessed Virgin will stand crowned and no dragons of Hell will prevail against the Mother of God, first Christian. She will have a Son and we will understand, from Christmas to Christmas, better what that means until the last nativity set is made and we then are done with icons forever.
We will need no physical temple, because Mary and King Jesus will be there. God will be with man and all will be feasting forever.
To get there we must grow, so help us God.