I am in Berlin for a few days with my youngest son – a bit of a boys’ holiday. We managed to escape all the snow in England, but here it is freezing cold, foggy and snowing. It’s fantastic. And, contrary to the UK news media, nobody talks about the weather here – they just get on with it: it is just ‘weather’.
Anyway, we popped into the Berliner Dom yesterday evening so I could show Andy where I preached last September. He was impressed with the whole place and the enormous organ (over 7,200 pipes apparently…). But, while he wandered round looking at things (like the enormous pulpit under the enormous dome) I sat down quietly and looked around. And that is when I had my mini-epiphany.
It’s not great. I just noticed an enormous nativity/crib scene set up in a recess to one side of the ‘sanctuary’. The figures were… er … enormous. But, there was only Jesus, his family and the shepherds (plus, maybe, the odd cow – I can’t remember who else was there). Absent from the scene were the Magi.
Aha, I thought, they will produce them on 6 January and stick them where the now departed shepherds were – and this will prove how biblically and theologically ‘on the button’ the Germans are. But, no – I was wrong. They had gone one further and done something even more imaginative and thoughtful. Look at the photo below (I know it’s a bit dark, but my phone camera doesn’t ‘do’ dark…):
See them? They are on the opposite side of the church, peering out from the distant organ loft and pointing to the nativity scene in the distance. They are on their way, but there is time and space to get over first.
I just thought this was great – and very vivid. The Magi come late, but they are on their way, even if the people at the heart of the action don’t realise it yet.
I wonder if our churches might try this next year: have the Magi on the opposite side of the church through Advent (when they began their journey?) and Christmas – then bring them closer until Epiphany when they replace the shepherds. It’s a thought…