In simple things profound truths can be learned.
I found this out while raising my children and trying to combat the ‘popular culture’, which always seemed so overwhelming, especially that jolly-old, fun-fellow Santa Claus. Competing with him, I didn’t think I had a chance, but let me relate my story and the surprising inroads I was able to make.
In the early years of our marriage, the Brothers of the Holy Cross gifted us with a Nativity Set during the period my husband was a teacher/coach at their high school. It wasn’t a particularly expensive, unique set but I cherished it dearly because the brothers were a very special part of our lives at that time when we had one toddler son who, a few months after Christmas, was joined by a little sister. So each year we carefully unwrapped the ‘Forties’ type cotton batting protecting the figures, lovingly set up the manger, and afterward wrapped it and packed it away for the next year. I also managed to purchase little books relating the true story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and would read them during the preseason. My third son Jimmy, turned out to be a very literal little fellow and insisted the baby Jesus shouldn’t be in the Nativity scene until Christmas morning. So thus began a new family tradition.
During the following years, two more sons completed our family and the Baby Jesus mysteriously appearing in the manger Christmas morning became a most important event. I was amazed that as soon as they awoke, they always ran to the manger, ignoring the toys under the tree, to see if the baby was in place.
One year, as they were getting a little more sophisticated, I outsmarted myself hiding the tiny baby Jesus so well I couldn’t find it Christmas Eve. I was frantic, looking everywhere, but I couldn’t find it. Fortunately, a local drug store stayed open late and I rushed down there and purchased a tiny plastic doll which substituted satisfactorily that year. After Christmas, while cleaning, I found the Baby Jesus but to this day have the substitute just to remind me.
As the boys passed early adolescence, I decided I could stop the hiding practice, but was very surprised when my 6’2”, 180 lb. Shaun scolded me for putting the baby in before Christmas and teenaged Patrick echoed agreement. They told me what an important part of Christmas it was and how much they enjoyed finding the Baby Jesus Christmas morning.
As the years rolled on, the children all grew up and left home. I was getting close to what is euphemistically referred to as ‘the golden years’ but found myself busier than ever. One particularly stressful, activity filled season, I thought I would have a very laid-back Christmas, without the usual decorations and not take out the manger.
My granddaughter Katie came in and wanted to know why the manger wasn’t in place. I told her I was very tired this year and wasn’t going to put it up. She had fits! She insisted I get it down and she would assemble it. Well, she got a few pieces out and then had to leave for a dance lesson.
There I was, soooo tired but as I started to unwrap the figures all the old memories flooded my mind. I was filled with nostalgia and a song came to me which I began to sing as I set up the manger.
Here are the lyrics:
Here’s the faithful little donkey, here’s the cow who kept Him warm and the angels sang the story of the reason He was born. Hillside shepherds heard the singing and their hearts were filled with joy, cause they understood the reason for this wondrous baby boy.
Here’s the camel brought the wise men and the trusted nubian slave, kept his eye upon the star and he never lost the way. Now I take the wise men three and I set them in their place, black, white and oriental representing every race.
Here’s the protecting father Joseph, answered straight the angels call and the loving virgin mother, she’s the mother for us all.
Comes the most important moment, comes the reason forit all as I place the tiny Christ doll in the little manger stall.
Then I fall upon my knees, reverently my head I bow and invite the living presence, Him in my heart as king install.
And as a little child, most humbly I do pray, that our bond of love grows stronger every moment of each day. Every moment! Every day!
When my first grandchildren were small I taught them the song and they loved singing it. Now-a-days Katie comes home from college, and teenaged Merci and Gretchen make sure the younger children learn it. Setting up the manger seemed such a simple practice when it began all those years ago, but it has developed into a very meaningful, learning tradition for our family.
I would like every person who visits this Web site to know they are very special and dear to me. They will be in my heart and prayers as I celebrate this most wondrous Christmas, 2000 years since the birth of our savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. — Marilyn.