I put up the Christmas tree this year with a little help from my husband who is in charge of stringing the lights. He then retreats to a neutral corner while I decorate to my heart’s delight. My children tease me about my decorating fussiness. When my kids were small and wanted to help trim the tree, I let them. I sat quietly watching their attempts at hanging fifteen ornaments or more on the same branch. They couldn’t reach higher than midway up the tree so decorating was confined to lower branches only. Soon they tired of the activity, so I thanked them for all their help, and said I’d finish the job myself.
Is it wrong that I didn’t like the look of a half-naked tree, devoid of ornamentation on the top half? I certainly didn’t mean to hurt feelings when I rearranged the baubles, bangles and beads so the tree had a more uniform look to it. Unfortunately, when the kids saw me undo their decorating masterpiece, they were a little offended. So, I got them a “kid tree” as I called it and encouraged them to make decorations for it. I supplied some unbreakable balls and garland and let them loose to decorate their tree with all the gusto and panache preschoolers could muster. They were content.
It took everything in me not to rearrange their tree when they toddled off to bed.
I do love when the house is decorated for Christmas. It’s a lot of effort and sometimes I bah humbug the process a bit, but the end result is worth it.
The last thing I put out each year, is our Nativity scene. Of all the decorations in my home, this scene is the most important one. I take my time. The figurines are delicate, and very breakable so I handle each one with care. Before we got this fragile porcelain set we now have, we had a more-kid-friendly version that allowed the children to help set up the display without my worrying over anything breaking.
On Christmas Eve, the Nativity scene captivates our attention. I purposefully showcase it in the room so that we may look at it while listening to my husband read the Christmas Story (Matthew 1:18-2:23). The children know the story by heart, so my husband likes to throw in a silly phrase or word to see if they are truly paying attention or just concentrating on the presents waiting to be opened under the tree.
When our first child was two, she was fascinated by the stable scene centred prominently on our coffee table. Curious to see if she remembered the Christmas story we had just read to her, I asked her, “Do you know who all these people are?” Wide-eyed and eager to share her knowledge, she pointed to the animals in the scene first.
“A donkey, a camel, and a cowie!” I smiled and prompted her to focus on the human figures.
“Who are these men with the presents in their hands?” I asked her.
“That’s the three wise men.” She answered.
“Very good! And who is this?” I pointed to the man holding a shepherd’s crook.
“That’s Joseph!” I smiled and commended her for her good memory. I then pointed to the Baby lying in a manger. “Who is this?’
“That’s Baby Jesus!” she said without hesitation.
Her attention was focused entirely on the baby, so I took the opportunity to share how much God loved the world that He sent His Son, Jesus to us so that whoever believes in Him shall never die but have eternal life. She looked at me with a puzzled gaze. It was a hard thing for her to understand. I knew that. Even as an adult, I’ve struggled to understand this is God’s divine plan. The Baby Jesus, God Incarnate, Who left His Heavenly Throne to come to us as a Baby for the sole purpose of being our Saviour! It is beyond our comprehension! The Baby heralded by the angels announcing His Birth, and foretold by the prophets proclaiming Him to be Emmanuel, God with us. I admit that it is a very strange way for the world to be saved!
I hugged my child and realized we’d forgotten one figure in the scene. “We’ve forgotten someone. Who is this lady?”
My daughter, with her pixie dimples and angelic smile, clapped her hands and yelled, “Oh, that’s Mary Christmas!”
***I had the privilege of sharing this story at our church choir’s Christmas presentation of Emmanuel. You would be well-blessed to see this concert at your leisure this week.***