Written by Michelle Lebowitz
Since 2008, when my nieces asked my husband, David, to “help out” with their ballet company’s production of The Nutcracker, our advent season has been measured by rehearsals and performances. “Helping out” actually meant performing in the party scene and then backstage during the rest of the show. Kendall joined the cast in 2015 and now Tchaikovsky’s music is the constant soundtrack for our fall and Advent season. Last year her ballet company performed at another local Methodist church, and I discovered a devotional written about the Nutcracker – The Gift of the Nutcracker by Matt Rawle. While I’ve listened (and listened) to the Nutcracker soundtrack and watched (and watched) dozens of Nutcracker performances, his book gave me another perspective. It helped connect show that has taken over our lives during the busiest season in our family with the actual reason for the season. Please enjoy this excerpt from his book.
[The following comes from The Gift of the Nutcracker, written by Matt Rawle, and can be found on pages 63-64 of that book. The book can be purchased here.]
GOD’S LOVE BECOMING REAL
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
These words are famous opening lines from three well-known and treasured stories – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and Star Wars by George Lucas. Whether it’s in print or on the big screen, we love a good story; and Christmas is no exception. Stories such as The Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker are beloved favorites that capture the childlike wonder of the season. Yet beyond its appeal and charm as a seasonal staple, The Nutcracker has rich symbolism that speaks to us of a much greater story.
Clara is cherished by her godfather, Drosselmeir, who gives her the gift of a toy nutcracker. The Nutcracker battles the evil Mouse King, only to be killed and then brought back to life by the godfather himself. The Nutcracker then brings Clara to his kingdom, where his subjects have anxiously awaited his return. It resonates with strong parallels to the gospel story – a story of God’s love becoming real in our lives through the gift of Jesus Christ.
The original Christmas story begins in Luke 2 with a familiar Nativity scene involving a young couple, angels, shepherds, and the Christ child lying in a manger. But it is in John’s Gospel where we find words that, in a sense, might serve as a famous first line for the story: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16). Though often associated with the end of Jesus’ earthly life, this verse also speaks of the deep love that motivated God’s gift of love made flesh on that first Christmas morning. God’s love becoming real in our lives is what the Christmas story is about. During Advent we wait for the One who reveals God’s heart of love, a love so great that it gives all for us. This season as you prepare to celebrate the greatest story ever told, as yourself this question: How is God’s love becoming real in my life?
God of love, thank you for the gift of your love in Jesus – the greatest gift of all. Show me how I can fully unwrap this gift so that your love may become real in my life in new and exciting ways. Amen.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!