While the ink was still wet on my signature, the realtor asked if she could come to my new home and dig Joseph out of the front yard where she had buried him. Was she a woman scorned? Who was Joseph? Was this some kind of quirky mid-west thing? She had my full attention and I welcomed her explanation with reserved judgement. Turns out she had inherited an expensive nativity set from her great-aunt and then buried the Saint Joseph figurine to fulfill a family tradition when selling a house. For best results upside-down-and-facing-the-road was the optimal burial position because then the Joseph statue could see oncoming hopefuls and would be so eager to get out and right himself that the transaction would happen quickly. I was still shaking my head a few days later when I noticed a newly dug hole next to where the For Sale sign had been. For some mysteries, there is no resolve…
A nativity tradition in my husband’s family was displaying the beautiful figurines in a little wooden stable atop the credenza during the holiday season, but omitting baby Jesus. It wouldn’t be until Christmas morning before the kids got out of bed that his mother would place baby Jesus in the manger. Reminiscing, Jeff says there was something special about anticipating Jesus. Yes indeed…
Ever since we were kids we have participated in real-live nativities. I guess Mom saw the importance of putting us directly in front of the manger. If there was an infant in the family we had ourselves a ready-made Jesus and the rest of us were assigned roles according to size and age. One year mops and brooms were the shepherd’s staffs and the wise men brought chocolate candy bars instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which were in short supply at our house.
I was pleased when my own child, Jack, got to carry on this nativity tradition in pre-school. He shared with me how he was a little sad because he wasn't going to be a shepherd like two of his friends, but was satisfied when I told him he was what they called "a child of God" sent to worship the baby Jesus. He asked if he was to wear a costume (bonus) but I said no, children of God just wore what normal kids wore and it made sense to him…mystery solved. Sometimes it’s okay to just be an “extra”.
Years ago there was a hilarious story on the radio some of you might remember about a Christmas pageant nativity gone awry. The baby Jesus role was played by a five pound bag of flour, which was supposed to slide down a zip line and land in the manger. In an epic fail, the pseudo baby Jesus made it only so far before hitting a guy in the head short of the manger.
Our pastor shared how his family once hosted a group of women from Japan who were in town for a women’s conference. He assigned the nativity presentation to his pre-teen daughter and her friends who were eager to help but he got busy and didn’t have the opportunity to see them practice. He, along with his non-English speaking guests were shocked as the little girls acted out a very realistic birth much like it might have happened in the Bethlehem stable without the assistance of modern pain medicine. Let’s just say it was no silent night! The Japanese women might not have understood the skit’s dialogue, but there was no mystery discerning the message.
It’s so important not to miss the message, so simple even a preschooler can understand it… Our role is to be children of God worshiping Jesus. The gift we bring is our self, just as we are, no costume. It has been said “a STABLE life can be found in the manger”.
(And WISE men still bring chocolate.)
Janet Cowger- Fliegel