Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I don’t remember when we didn’t have a small Nativity scene as part of our Christmas celebration---and I don’t think we ever called it crèche. Well, perhaps did, but only in one of my extravagant moods or when someone else might be listening and be suitably impressed. We’ve had china ones, a flat little “stained glass” set which was actually some kind of textured acetate, cut into the figures, with black markings for the leadings and features; we painted those ourselves into ethereal transparently watery colors, with the paint-pens enclosed in the set.

We have several still---one a free-hand router-cut wooden one, with the three principal figures only, flat and stylized, nailed in front of a slant-roofed depiction of a small shed---Daddy had a remarkable talent for all things made of wood.

There was the small plastic made-in-Taiwan model, from my children’s early childhood, with the quickly-painted daubs of robes and faces and a handful of mossy straw idly hanging from the eaves of the stable. That was the one which impelled my Mother's delighted quizzing of my oldest son the Christmas that he’d just turned five. He had been learning the books of the Bible and the Christmas Story in our small-town, taught-by-Pentecostal-ladies Kindergarten. “Now, who is this?” Mother pointed to the small figure. He’d answer, “That’s Joseph.”

She’d smile and nod and move on: “Who’s this one?” “Baby Jesus,” he’d reply. She nod approval, touching a fingertip to the smaller standing shape, “And who is THIS?” she’d ask, barely able to stifle her mirth. “Mary,” he’d say.

Mother would gasp a little, almost unable to control her breathing, as she posed the vital question, “And what’s Mary’s LAST name?”

Broughtforth,” would come the earnest answer, and Mother would lose her breath laughing.

For the past several years, we’ve had a little clear-glass Manger-Scene on a small oval mirror on a table in the living room. It’s just a stylized set, but beautiful in its simplicity and the aura of light which surrounds it beside the tree. And one year, I lost Baby Jesus.

Somehow, in the maneuvering to get in and out to water the plants in the corner, or dust the table’s several items, or just my plain clumsiness, I knocked several of the pieces to the floor. Nothing was broken, and I gathered them up carefully, looking for nicks or cracks or the sharp edges of a break. Miraculously none. But the Holy Child was missing.

I crawled around on the carpet, on the hardwood, looking into the folds of the tree-skirt, the couch-cover, the fringed edges of the big rug---not to be found. I set the empty manger back up onto the table, in its place between the adoring parents, and kept a lookout for a small form glinting in all the presents and bows and flowerpots.

And he was not to be seen again, not the whole season, til time to put away the small clear figures into their cushioned box. As we worked, I mentioned to Caro that I had looked and looked, trying to find the Baby, the central figure, the true Reason for the Season, and had had no luck.

She looked, laughed and set the small manger aright onto the table, and there, in some sort of optical miracle---there He was---in the manger all the time. 

I, of the baby-bed-and-bassinet mind-set, had set it upside down, making the small legs and feet of the manger into the head-and-footboards, and the poor Infant sculpted into the glass had spent His own Birthday lying face down under the bed.

And I'd been poking about amidst presents and rug fluff and beneath cushions and under sofas---for a an elusive something which was right before my face the whole time.

There’s a sermon in there somewhere, of the search, of the finding, of the losing and of the giving up, of the looking in the wrong places and of the not seeing at all what is RIGHT THERE. I hope this is a season of Finding and Keeping and knowing what is there, because it’s so easy to pass by and overlook. I hope also that I keep the eyes to see what is real and what is good, and the heart to know it when I see it.


Southern Lady said...

What a beautiful and thought-provoking post, Rachel. It was the first one I read this morning and I can't think of a better way to begin my day. It's going to be a busy one in Jackson, filled with last minute shopping, hair appointment, and a quick (I hope) trip to the grocery store. I hope I can keep my perspective on what is good and real, amongst all the hustle and bustle.

Nail said...

With everything that's going on in the world, and the way our country is split into....may we all search for the truth and honestly try to find which ones of us just has it "upside down"...

Mother quizzing that little blond boy in front of the tree is one of my favorite memories of her...

Sherry (in Plano) said...

Lovely post! I'll be thinking about that all day.

racheld said...

How lovely to hear from all of you!! It is a lot of memories about a simple subject, such a part of all our Christmases, in glistening glass and in the rough wood as humble as the place of that Glorious Birth.

My favorite memory, too, Sis, and it remained in the telling every Christmas as long as she lived.

And Sherry---I've looked happily at "Plano" on the list quite often, and hoped to meet that nice person someday. You're welcome any time, and I hope you'll join in often. It's a lovely gift that you commented at Christmas.

Thank you all for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

A good of sermon as ever presented in church services. Thank you for everything you share and your wonderful gift of humor.

Keetha said...

Ah, yes, there's a lesson in there somewhere. I love the way your mind works. Great post!

Tonja said...

Wonderful post! I laughed at the 'broughtforth'! Too cute! And, I agree with you about the sermon. And, really just remembering the story again is sermon enough...for we all know the lessons that it teaches...we just need to be reminded!
A little boy loved listening to his grandmother tell him stories from the Bible. He paid very close attention and learned much from her. One day, he was a little confused, and he said, "Grandmother, which virgin is the mother of Jesus...the Virgin Mary of the King James' Virgin?!!! :)

Jeanne said...

Hello Recheld, your comment on my post is so sweet. I too loved those photos and was quite amazed by them.

I enjoyed your story about the nativities in your family. Especially the glass one and the missing baby Jesus. I would have looked everywhere but where he was as well. Very amusing and I am glad he was found.

We are leaving this Sat. to be with family for the Christmas holidays. I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas full of warmth and love.

Christmas love, Jeanne

Robert Walker said...

Amen. Thanks for you inspiring words! God bless and have a wonderful merry Christmas!

Kim S. said...

Reading a snippet of Miss Gladys today, I remembered this post and reminded myself to remember to LOOK and SEE this year! You and Miss Gladys remind me to find the important in everyday things. Thank you!

Kouign Aman said...

Told my 5 yr old about the baby Jesus. She said she is glad you found Jesus. Then she laughed fit to bust a gut.