Shifting Focus

My husband and I are expecting our first child any day now. Carrying a child during the Advent season offers one a new perspective on the arrival of the Messiah–and this new perspective has led me to focus my attention not to the center of the nativity scene but to the outskirts.

I was busy working one day, putting away gifts we have received from various showers. As I stood looking into our almost full closet of clothes, toys, and supplies, I was shocked by how much stuff we already had–and the baby wasn’t even here yet! I was somewhat overcome with shame by how much we have in the Western world, but then my shame changed to gratefulness as I thought about the friends and family who supplied these gifts, and the love and support they already have for this unborn child.

This scene of wealth made me think about Mary and Joseph and their status as first time parents. First I laughed thinking about the stereotypical image of Mary riding on a donkey, traveling with Joseph–of course labor was induced after such a journey! But then I pictured them in a cave with animals–there wasn’t a grandmother in sight with a camera at the ready to welcome Mary’s first child. I felt badly for Mary and Joseph who did not have their usual community of family and friends surrounding them. I can’t be certain, but I doubt they were bombarded with baby gifts from family members, friends, or coworkers.

But then my gaze shifted, and God revealed to me a scene of significance that I had not taken into consideration until that day: the wisemen. They came offering gifts, and with them God provided baby gifts for Mary and Joseph. I’m not sure if the gifts of the Magi were as practical as my baby monitor, diaper genie, or new stroller, but gifts they were nonetheless. And for the first time I was grateful for the wisemen, for the role they played in welcoming the Christ child, and for the example they give to us as followers of Christ.

And as my gaze shifted to focus on those on the fringes of the nativity scene, I thought about those who stand on the outskirts of faith. I think we all need to be aware of the gifts we can bring to the Savior– and we should encourage those on the outside to bring what they have. This season of Advent and Epiphany, I bring the gift of gratefulness to the Messiah. I am grateful for new perspectives, grateful God thought of all the small details, and grateful the wisemen took the journey to find the anointed one. May your focus shift this season over to the place God intends for it to be.

Gretchen Schoon Tanis is currently a full time doctoral student in youth ministry at King’s College, London, England.