Have you ever gone on a God Hunt? A God Hunt begins when you teach yourself to look for God’s hand at work in the everyday occurrences of your life. Here’s one of my personal God Hunt Sightings:
During the Christmas season, in Oaxaca, elaborate nacimientos are built in the courtyards and open plazas and churches around the city as both a cultural and spiritual exercise, reminders that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. In this culture, as in our American culture, one wonders what kind of meaning people attach to this practice.
In the city of Oaxaca (both the state and the capital have the same name) in Mexico, we were strolling one evening and turned in at the gate of what we discovered was the beautifully restored Ex Convento de Sao Paolo, now dedicated to the development of reading. Turning in casually and then with mounting curiosity through the gates, we discovered a spacious courtyard bordered on one side by a modernized glass room. In here we discovered a huge Nativity that showed scenes from the life of Christ, beginning with the life of Mary and His earthly grandmother Anne and ending with the Flight into Egypt, the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Visitation of the Three Kings.
Beautifully created, a display of molds showed how the figures were cast, and we took our time absorbing each of the vignettes. I noticed a handsome Mexican man, guiding three of his children around the displays. Because he was speaking in Spanish, of course, I caught little of what he was saying. I’m pretty sure, however, that he was explaining what each of the stories meant to his eager and entranced offspring.
What a wonderful way to teach the Scripture, I thought, and remembered the exquisite Nativity, lit softly at night in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. A missionary friend sends us a small santon each year as a thank-you for our support of her. This French tradition includes a Nativity toward which all the townspeople are traveling—the washer-woman and the candle-maker, the bread man and the shepherd, the miller and the butcher. This set I leave out year-round, high enough in a little cabinet that it is out of the reach of my younger grandchildren. I love my collection of santons and will admit that I’ve coveted the large, expensive sets signed by recognized artists that adorn the shop windows in little French towns. Because those are out of my economic reach, perhaps I appreciate even more the miniature santon that gets added year by year from our friend.
I brought back a Nativity from Alcala, Spain, and display a beautiful ceramic rendition of the Holy Family on a table near the fireplace in the living room, given to me by another friend. David and I find unusual Nativities as we travel—a set for granddaughter Joscelyn we discovered in a shop in Sedona, Arizona, last spring, and another southwestern Nativity for her brother Ayden, with cowboys and Indians visiting the crèche.
Last year I came across a Nativity set handmade by a local artisan. The stable is crafted from discarded whiskey boxes and all the figures are hand-sewn. I didn’t have enough money to make the purchase, but this past season I bought the crèche and the Holy Family and the Three Wise Men and a camel. I figured I could buy the rest next year. This all for our family that has the youngest grandchildren. After I brought them home and showed them to my husband, he said, “Oh, just order the rest of the set. That way, they’ll have a complete Nativity.” So at his urging, I ordered a donkey and a cow and an angel and a shepherd.
Having been in Oaxaca, however, and having observed that father so carefully commenting on each scene in the extended nacimiento, it made me realize that it is not enough to have Nativity sets; we need to establish a tradition of telling our children what the Nativity set represents. (This is one of those “duh!” moments that frequents my human experience.)
And so, when this last week, I packed up the Nativity to ready it for its journey from our basement family-room (where it was displayed during this last Christmas) to my son’s attic, where it will be stored for the next holy season, I included a picture book that tells the story of Christmas—a tool for my adult children to establish a better way of keeping the tradition of the nacimiento than I have kept it in the past.
I hold the memory of that father and his three children because it reminds me that all of life is filled with moments that allow us to teach the ones we love about the God who also loves us. We just have to learn to pay attention to the opportunities.
I spy God!
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.