Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking a Break

   It began with a crashing computer. The one with all of my photographs on it. Then one excuse began piling up after another. My stress level kept rising. I could not organize my thoughts or anything else, for that matter. So after much angst, I gave myself permission to take a break from blogging. Something that is supposed to be fun and therapeutic had ended up becoming a burden. Not a good idea.
   I am back today with a repost of a very special Christmas blessing that has a place of honor in our home each and every year. I just put this treasure out today. I know. It's the week before Thanksgiving. And here I am decorating for Christmas. But I have a good excuse. A really good excuse. I am having my right knee replaced the day before Thanksgiving. So unless I decorate today and tomorrow, the Christmas decor will pretty much be nonexistent. Thus...I have been dragging out my treasures and putting them out...smiling all the way. It's been a delightful day. 
    I do hope to update you all on my knee replacement (this is my third joint to be replaced.) It's not exactly something to which I am looking forward, but it is something that I most definitely need to do. Look for me later. I will be the one in the hideous white TED hose that will carry me right through Christmas. Maybe I'll just pretend to be a snow bunny this year...right.

     During the first twenty-five years of our marriage, it became a tradition for me to purchase something reminiscent of the nativity as a part of the Christmas gift The Husband and I gave to one another. Thus it is that our home at Christmas is filled with creches. When Christmas is over, I don't even put them all away. Some of them remain in place throughout the year as a perpetual reminder of the "Gift" they represent. Some are ornaments that hang upon the tree; others are fashioned of wood, ceramic, or clay, and one set is made entirely of felt. It is just perfect for little grandbaby hands to hold and to move and to place just so over and over again.
       However, the favorite of all of my creches is a very humble nativity, one that is not likely to attract a second glance unless you know the story behind it. Despite its lack of supposed beauty, it has a place of prominence in our home: it has its home on the entry hall table to greet guests when they come in the door. 
       The base is a slab of unfired clay made by one of my children. There are little figures crafted by another of my children, where once there were four figures, only three have stood the test of time. Sadly, Joseph has completely disintegrated. The figures are accompanied by a hand-lettered banner made by yet another child and finished off with a clay plaque by the last of my children. Thus, this beloved nativity represents the collective efforts of all four of our offspring. It was not planned this way, but I am convinced it was a gracious coincidence guided by a heavenly hand.
     The banner is twenty-three years old. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the "Goly to God in the highest..." Goly was a first grader's way of writing "Glory," but I am sure that God understood exactly what this child of mine was trying to say. 
     Another child lovingly crafted the base which originally was shaped more like a cave and had an overhanging top that has long since broken off. It holds the three figures (there were once four). There is  Mary; she is the figure on the right bending over the tiny figure resting on a bed of clay. It is Baby Jesus but his head is no longer attached to his body and must be carefully positioned or it will roll off on its own. To the right of Jesus and Mary is a lion, crouching in the snow. When the son who made the figures came home with this nativity with the lion, I had the audacity to ask him, "A lion?"  (I am thinking a cow or sheep might have been more appropriate, but mothers should learn early never to ask children questions like this, unless they want to immediately be put in their place. I will never forget that he looked at me with something akin to disdain as he said, "Of course, Mommy, don't you know that the lion goes with the lamb?"  And so it does. I cried. He patted me. 
      The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God...they go together, do they not, and indeed, are they not one and the same? Yes, some of the most profound truths come out of the mouth of babes. 
     The final complement to this treasured creche is the little clay plaque in the back:.You can barely read it, but in case you can't, I'll tell you: It says, "Jesus I Love You." It was originally supposed to be a cross, an Easter decoration, but when this child brought it home he told me,"I couldn't do the cross, Mommy, I wrote Jesus a letter instead. I thought He might like it better than the cross. I wanted to tell Him thank you." I cried again. He said, "I want it to go with the manger." It was springtime so I asked again, "Do you want me to put it out with the Easter things?"  He shook his head firmly. "No, this cross is a letter, and it goes with the manger." 
       How could it be that a child understood something so deep, so powerful, so profound?  How could he grasp at the age of five, the very essence of the cross? How could he know that the cross, the terrible, wondrous cross, is also a letter, an I-love-you letter from a Holy God to His beloved, yet sinful people. 
       So you see perhaps why this tiny fragile nativity holds a place so dear to this mother's heart. Each child of mine made his or her contribution, unplanned and unscripted over the course of many years to make it complete. There is a Banner of Love (Goly to God...). A little cave to cradle the Holy Family. A lion to stand guard and to lie down with the lamb.  And finally, a love letter that would and should have been a cross, except that a little boy wanted so much to write this letter to say thank you to Jesus for the cross. And the child knew intuitively that this was no ordinary baby, this was a baby born to die to save us from our sins. Christmas irrevocably linked to Easter. It is no accident that we must become as little children, is it? And once again, I cry, "Lord help my unbelief. Help each of us to believe with the wonder and the certain faith of a child."

    It is my Advent song this year...starting with the Week of Thanksgiving.

from the archives

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