Right here in the manger.

The shepherd’s name was Fred. He was part of our family nativity scene, a hodgepodge of painted plaster figurines with broken-off and re-glued heads, plastic replacements with the prices still stamped on the bottom, and one glass angel wearing a silvery gown that always reminded me of something Diana Ross once wore on a T.V. special.

Our family nativity scene was pieced together over years that spanned six curious kids, various hungry family dogs, and a lot of moving vans. The plastic camel had a split right down his middle that gave my brother hours of entertainment chasing me around the house, daring me to touch its plastic guts that looked disturbingly like pumpkin insides. Then there was the stable itself. My dad had built it from scrap lumber, purposely giving it a rough, unfinished look, and leaving a tiny opening in the back so you could fit a Christmas light inside to shine on baby Jesus. I remember lying in front of that manger scene for hours–it always sat under the Christmas tree–carefully rearranging animals and shepherds. I believed this was exactly how it looked when Jesus was born, right down to the blue light shining on Fred and Diana.

That’s probably why I love all manger scenes. I love the old family heirlooms, and the kind you get at the dollar store. I like goofy ones with Santa Claus in them, or with bears dressed up as Mary and Joseph. I love the enormous ones on people’s front lawns, and the tiny ones inside snow globes. I love them because they tell the story. Even better, they invite us right into that stable with the Son of God. How cool is that?

My oldest sister has been entrusted with our old family nativity scene, but over the years I’ve collected a few new ones to cherish. There’s this gorgeous one,  that my mother-in-law made when my husband and I were first married, and that made me feel a part of the Clark family.

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Then there’s this wee little baby Jesus, who really is wee little. I bought it for my mom, who loved all things miniature. After she passed away, one of my sisters found it and gave it to me. (And yes, I know I should wait until December 25th to put baby Jesus in there–but I’m usually having a good cry as I set this up, so sue me.)

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Then there’s this one, from the mom of one of my catechism students. I love that her dad carved it from various types of wood–it reminds me a little of the stable my dad made.

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What about you? What nativity scenes do you like? The ones your kids make? The drive-through kind? The one on your favorite Christmas coffee mug? The one that was (sigh) banned from your city? Share them all here, where they will be loved and admired.

And don’t forget, I’m still looking for your Advent house decorations. Send those in, too, so we can all share.

God bless!

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4 thoughts on “Right here in the manger.

  1. Our wise men always had great adventures around the house on their way to the manger…one year, one got lost in the cushions on the couch for several days – actually he might not have been found until sometime in that summer…Thanks for keeping us focused on the “real” stuff, Connie.

  2. Brought a few tears to these eyes. Forgot about the camel with the gross stringy waxey insides. That Nativity scene was so humble. It became THE nativity scene as we were growing up and totally irreplaceable. Beautiful post Con- thank you!

  3. Connie, you brought back some memories of when My son was small, and he couldn’t wait to put Baby Jesus in because “he might get cold”. Also, having the Wise Men around the front room, gradually getting closer. I have a fond memory of a “salt and flour” Nativity set I made for the Newman center one year I was in college. The priest just loved it. He went on and on about it,and then, as soon as Epiphany was over, it mysteriously disappeared! Never saw it again, but that priest had an odd twinkle in his eyes every time it was mentioned! Have a wonderful holiday dear! Blessings, Mary Breiner

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