It's happened. Finally. I've been expecting it all along, but began to think once we were through the Third Sunday of Advent that we were in the clear. But I think the days of our contemporary creche scene are numbered now. It seems that while it has been meaningful to some, it has been too raw for others. And this has caused some folks to feel alienated from worship as we've moved through Advent.
The question is now before us: How to proceed in such a way that is 1) respectful and pastoral to those who feel alienated from the project while 2) not doing an injustice to the integrity of the idea, for it does have integrity. (For my original reflections on our creche this year, see this post.)
The only thing I feel certain of is that our next step must be a prayerful one. I don't want to respond from a shallow place inasmuch as this project is important to me as a liturgical theologian. At the same time, I do not want to smooth edges that are rough, that remain rough whether we face them head on or not. By this I mean, the world is broken. Even if we do clean up the sanctuary, the world remains broken.
The idea G and I were working with last week was to create stations for the Christmas Eve service. Each station, located somewhere in the creche, would have a tray (aluminum tray, say, from an empty frozen lasagna pan) full of sand. Each person would be given a long, thin taper (3/4" x 8") which would be lit from the Christ candle then taken prayerfully to one of the stations and placed there. A way of bringing light, warmth, to the darkness. "Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome." After this, each person would be given one of those more stubby candles and return to their seat for some Christmas singing. The space was going to be transformed at least to that extent.
Now I have the sense that this will not be enough. And I find myself wondering, how long does the grit have to remain in the oyster before it stops being an irritation and begins to turn into a pearl?
Does transforming the space into something more palatable tame the revolutionary Christ in our midst? Or is it an act of pastoral care?