• Bill McLean

Being a Tourist

Updated: Jan 3

When I was serving as a congregational pastor in rural Indiana, our congregation held a display of nativity sets. Some were huge and some were tiny. Some were antiques and some were recent purchases. They came from congregation members, community members, and friends of the church. Our family contributed our Fisher-Price Little People Nativity (picture below).

Volunteers setup and displayed the nativities on temporary display tables in the sanctuary. It was a wonderful display of dozens of nativities that was open to the public and showed the many ways that we visually represent the familiar story of Jesus’ birth.

Unknown to our family an extra person was added by accident to our set at home before we brought it in . . . a Little People tourist complete with camera. And the volunteers had setup the set with the tourist taking a picture of the scene of Jesus in the manger. I could not help but laugh at the scene and now years later it still makes me smile to think about it.

Yet, the image of a tourist taking pictures of the nativity raises an interesting question. Are we just tourists who are observing the baby Jesus through the lenses of our camera or are we following the example of the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen?

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. - Luke 2:16-20 (NRSV)

Unlike the shepherds we are often content to sit back and let others do the work as we look on like tourists seeing an exhibit at a museum. Or maybe we simply stay still and wait for things to change around us so we will not have to act. Or maybe we are waiting for things to return to “normal” before we act.

Instead, let us hear the call from the angel of the Lord “Do not be afraid” so that we can follow the example of the shepherds who actively proclaimed all that they had seen and heard.

What new things will you do so that you can boldly glorify and praise God for all that you have received? What experiments will you try to share the Good News of God’s love with your neighbors? How will you move beyond being a tourist looking through the camera lenses to actively caring for each other?

May the peace of Christ be with you today, tomorrow and throughout the year to come.

Grace and peace,


Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II

Presbyter for Congregational Care

Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois

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