The crèche is a familiar sight during this time of the year. You can find simple nativity scenes on the mantles of homes, and more elaborate ones on town squares. Some churches even host live nativity scenes, complete with costumed characters and barnyard animals.
Have you ever noticed that in many crèches, the Baby Jesus has outstretched arms? What’s up with that? Doesn’t the Bible record that he would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes”? (Luke 2:12). I have a new granddaughter whose head is the only thing visible when she’s tightly swaddled. We affectionately call her “our baby burrito.”
This article from the United Methodist Church explains the rich symbolism in nativity scenes, including the reason why the infant Jesus is often displayed with open arms. It is a symbolic gesture, an open invitation to come to God through Christ.
So many don’t see God this way. They ponder the pain in our world and conclude that God is either non-existent or aloof. Yet if Christmas teaches us anything, it teaches that God knows all about human suffering, for He Himself became a human being: “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14, NET Bible). The outstretched arms of the Nativity Jesus is also a foreshadowing when those arms would later be stretched out on a cross. There, on that windswept hill called Golgotha, an ugly mob would mock the Son of God, the tear-stained face of His mother and beloved disciple, John, looking up at Him with unspeakable sorrow.
The God of Christmas is the God who entered history, the Lord of heaven and earth who humbly wrapped Himself in flesh for the sake of humanity, the generous God who, with outstretched arms, invites you to rush into His embrace with this guarantee: “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).