Crowding the Manger

Illustration of a husband and wife standing and looking at a nativity manger set in their living room
Laura Perez

My husband thinks that every Nativity scene should be packaged with an authentic barn smell. Shall we call it Eau de Stable? He believes it would be a powerful testament to the love of the Father and the humility of the Son of God.

I think it's a great idea. Really I do. But I still prefer a pristine kind of manger scene. I am especially fond of ours. The handcrafted pieces, made of sturdy pine, are simple figures of the most important characters in the Christmas story.

Traffic and clutter

At our old house, this Nativity sat at the crossroads of household life, on a half wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. It was a small display, but I hoped its central location would give it pre-eminence over the presents gathering under the Christmas tree.

But, as crossroads have a tendency to do, this junction in our home attracted a lot of traffic and a lot of clutter. Sure enough, the detritus of daily life sifted down and landed around my precious exhibit.

I looked over one day to find stuff crowding Jesus and company. So I took inventory: one toy monster truck, one shoehorn, one prayer list, one present, one stereo remote, one toy fighter jet, one Advent devotional book, one ballpoint pen, a bundle of Christmas cards and a wad of dollar bills.

At the feet of Jesus

The everything-has-a-deeper-meaning side of me was taken aback. I knew it had to be a sign that we were too busy and our hectic lives had to be simplified. The pragmatic mother part of me wanted to whisk all intruding items away from the Nativity and restore it to tidy perfection.

But maybe our family got the Nativity right that year, after all. Work, play, worship, service and relationship were all represented in the items laid at the feet of Jesus. And if He was so bothered by messes, why did He choose that smelly stable for the place of His birth? Maybe I could put aside my own pretenses of perfection and come to my Savior, who is "gentle and humble in heart," and find rest for my soul (Matthew 11:28-29).

This year, watch what lands in your Nativity display. Is there anything you need to add? Maybe a cellphone or TV remote, a calendar or shopping list, your laptop or checkbook? Whatever it may be, lay it at the feet of Jesus. Then, with the quiet figures at the manger, stop, and find rest.

This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Crowding the Manger." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2011 by Marcy Hires. Used by permission.

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