Today’s post is an article I wrote that was first published in indeed magazine, November/December 2007. It talks about the beauty of our favorite Nativity set and what it represents. Hope you enjoy.
Up and down the basement stairs my husband Mart went, bringing boxes and bags filled with Christmas decorations. He stacked everything in the living room beside the newly-cut and fragrant Fraser fir. As I unwrapped precious keepsake ornaments, I remembered the little preschooler with pudgy hands and dimpled cheeks who made them. While I waltzed down memory lane of Christmases past, our now seven-year-old daughter skipped into the room and picked up her old lopsided creations with a grin.
While we trimmed the tree, Mart took the nativity set, a gift from a close friend, to the kitchen. One of my favorite rooms, our kitchen has skylights and wooden beams in the ceiling and folk art on the walls, even the brown-brick fireplace. The hearth stands about three feet high, which makes it a convenient catch-all for our girl's schoolwork, random toys, and stubby pencils.
Mart carefully unpacked the tall resin figures with their muted clothing and animal companions and dusted them off. After he finished preparing the stable and the figures for their brief but critical annual appearance, he left the kitchen without setting up the scene. A twinkle in his eye, he knew our daughter would take care of that. Like him, she loves to sort and organize, traits that please him very much.
Sure enough, that afternoon, she studied the scene and then arranged the figures: baby Jesus in the middle, Joseph leaning on a staff to His left, Mary keeping a watchful eye from the right, the small crowd of attendants in the front. The next day she moved them around—this shepherd goes here, that wise man there, the lamb closer in so he can see the baby. She continued to reposition everyone almost every day. Mart and I enjoyed the different interpretations and sometimes talked about them after she went to bed.
One evening, he noticed a wise man standing alone to the side of the stable, his back turned. Mart grinned and said, “He must be overcome. He needs a moment to himself.”
Another time all the figures, including the animals, stood single-file in a long line that stretched the length of the hearth. I said in my best announcer’s voice, “Everybody who wants to see the baby, line up here. One at a time, please. One at a time.”
A few days after Christmas, Mart turned the wise men, the shepherds, and the animals so that they were all facing away from the stable. They were going home.
During dinner, he asked our girl if she had noticed.
She nodded, frowning, as she looked at the group headed toward the edge of the hearth and our front door. “They’re leaving,” she said. She stood up, walked over, and quickly put them all back around the manger.
“Did they come back?” Mart asked.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “They came back to say goodbye one last time.”
The wise men and the shepherds didn’t want to leave that little stable. They wanted to stay with the baby Jesus, to worship and pay homage to him.
They knew their lives would never be the same. How could they be? They had seen the King.
As I thought about them, I couldn’t help but ask myself: after spending time with Jesus, do I long to stay with him, too, or do I hurry off to tend to things that need doing? Usually, I rush away, going over in my mind my latest to-do list, with barely a glance back.
I want to learn to linger with Jesus in quiet stillness. Just as those men, both the wise and the humble, must have wanted to, even as they made their long trek back home.
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