On Christmas Eve, I helped coordinate our church’s live nativity. Mary rocked her baby doll, while Joseph, about a foot shorter than the Blessed Mother, led the way to the cardboard barn at the front of the sanctuary. The characters donned swathes of fabric, quickly pinned or tied in sorority toga fashion. Damp sticks from the lawn and more rags over their little, sweaty heads helped distinguish the costumes as shepherds.
Our little angel, Ava, was simply perfect. With her white nightgown and tinsel halo, she held her arms overhead in impressive glorious celebration for a solid thirty minutes. What live nativity would be complete without livestock? In Hawesville, two cotton ball lambs baa-baa’d their way down the aisle, and a tiny cow stole the show with well-rehearsed moos.
As the characters sang “Silent Night,” I peered around the various pews. All smiles. Something about the children had stirred even the sleepiest souls at the late night service.
The annual honoring and observance of Christmas brings back memories of old. When I was young, I was an angel with chronic bronchitis. I barked to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and filled Oakland Avenue Baptist Church with the incense of cough drops. My crooked halo had poked me in the eye, and I, lacking the perseverance and fortitude of this year’s angel, covered my cough and teary face with gauzy wings. Angelic? Maybe not. Memorable? To me, it still is.
As this year comes to an end, I reflect on memories made. Some highlights were lovely, like the incubating and hatching of our own baby chicks, an impromptu beach trip, and reading The Chronicles of Narnia together as a family. Some moments created a sense of loss, like the death of my grandmother during the height of the quarantine and cruel Covid times, and the many unforgiving elements of farming.
I think that’s why live nativities, cookie baking with cousins, and stockings hung by the chimney with care are so very important. This world will forever be full of cold and casualty. We need the warm and comfortable places to think, to retreat, to rest.
Just like the hour and moment when the Son of God was born of poor Mary, in Bethlehem, at midnight in piercing cold, God heard the people’s desperate prayers for a savior and sent sweetness and goodness in the form of the Holy Infant. Now, the souls of man may live forever in peace because of Christmas. And wrapped in the loving Mother’s arms in swaddling clothes, He is the most comfortable, perfect place to ponder…. And to spend eternity.
Merry Christmas and may God bless your New Year.