Of all the ornaments and decorations, the figurines of Joseph and Mary, and baby Jesus in his manger, may appear the most fragile of them all, regardless of whether your Nativity was a recent purchase or handed down. Thirty years ago, my grandmother, Margaret Thomas, gifted in hand-painting ceramic pieces, labored meticulously on the details of Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus, the three Wise Men, a shepherd and an angel, camels and sheep, goats, and a donkey. When we placed the Nativity underneath the tree or on a table, the attraction of the 12-inch figures compelled visitors to discuss aspects of the most celebrated story. Whether you are a woman like Mary, pregnant and faithfully waiting for the birth of a child, or, perhaps, simply surprised by the contents of a Christmas letter, the story of the Nativity can personally speak to each one of us.
Mary and Joseph
The birth of Jesus provides stirring demonstrations of faith, love, acceptance, and perseverance in times of difficulty. You and I can wonder if Mary truly walked 90 miles across barren lands, fighting the sun and wind, in the final days of her pregnancy. Tired, with swollen feet and pain streaming through her body, she continued forward and reached her destination as prophesied. In the events of the story, we can read of the trials of her time and interpret her as a woman of endurance and strength, and Joseph as a man of guidance, decision, and protection. How often do we seek the power of God through prayer and know that we, too, will be guided?
No Room at the Inn
Not every event occurs as we hope. Conflict often leads to frustration, and separation from the very people we want to enjoy. In these situations, does it matter if there are enough beds or food to accommodate visitors? The answer for Joseph and Mary was to accept the words, “There is no room” in Bethlehem. In our striving for perfection, we need tolerance and understanding. Our situation can provide a memory—perhaps even a story—to share in future years.
Christmas is a time of news and reconnecting with extended family and friends who may live at a distance. We await “the witness” and learn—perhaps through a handwritten message—important news. In the story of the Nativity, news traveled slowly and was received years—and for some—decades later. Distance and connection may be the reason why the New Message was not delivered sooner. As in the Wise Men’s case, you may find yourself traveling and reaching out to become closer to a person in need. Will you become a shepherd of protection, or the legendary Wise Men providing support, comfort, and gifts? If you are symbolically a Mary or Joseph, blessings to those who open the door to witness the moment of unexpected miracles!
“Be Not Be Afraid”
Not all are joyous and allow the Christmas season to create a blanket of warmth. Feelings of fear or grief can be an overwhelming weight. “Be not be afraid” are words of faith [stated by the angels] that can aid in moments when we feel uncertain and need strength. During these times, think about the one who speaks to you and compels you forward. Is it the angels? Joseph and Mary, or, perhaps, the shepherds? “Be not afraid” is a calling to each of us in the hope the actions of biblical people will assist us in times of wonder and need.
For children, Christmas is a time to learn why the season contains unimaginable miracles and the need to follow faith and light. No matter what our age, the Christmas box containing our Nativity contains beautiful figurines, which represent our faith in Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the witnesses, and the angels. A child as young as 18 months can learn about the Oldest Story through magnets and books until they are ready to handle the porcelain figures with their own hands.
From babies to wise men and women, the story of the Nativity can guide our way, year after year, to fully celebrate Jesus’ birth and sing a song of tribute—Happy Birthday!