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Are You Ready for Christmas?

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

What does that mean?

Have you finished shopping? Are gifts wrapped and dispersed? Are neighborhood tokens of

friendship placed into Christmas bags with wishes of peace and good will?

Am I ready for Christmas? I thought I was, all the busy things finished—yes to shopping, mailing, working on neighborhood gifts. Until I walked by our nativity set, the one I purchased as green-fired ceramic fifty years ago. Because I was working a hundred hours a week then as a medical resident, and had so little time, I spray painted the pieces a single color, antiqued them with a glaze, then covered them with a gloss spray. I paid $40.00 for the entire collection.

The set has gone with us on every move. Joseph was once dropped by little hands and lost his head. Elmer’s glue fixed it. A dog chewed up one of the lambs. A camel has lost an ear.

The message? If you are looking for perfection, don’t look too closely. But if you are looking for adoration you will find it in these roughly painted figurines depicting the Savior’s birth that have been part of Allen family Christmases for half a century.

Only I wasn’t really looking at them looking until last night, a week before Christmas. Our

decorations have been up since Thanksgiving because usually, they bring happiness into my life. But this year, I felt dampened, subdued. Until last night when I realized I hadn’t taken the time to really look, to understand why these rustic representations of a holy night were in a place of prominence on our hearth. Distracted by all I thought I had to do, I was going through the motions of holiday celebration and worship, habits acquired over the years, so familiar now, they have become automatic.

But worship and adoration are not automatic.

Two millennia ago, a baby boy was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes by his young, adoring mother, and placed in a manger. Angels heralded his birth. Shepherds and wisemen came, following a new star.

His birth was the most significant event in the history of the world, setting in motion a loving, tender, opportunity given to the inhabitants of the earth from the beginning of time, that of returning to their place of origin, heaven. Honoring the eternal principle of agency, acknowledging the demands of justice, yet offering the redemption of mercy, our Savior’s birth, life and resurrection was an unconditional gift, given to humanity—given to me.

Automatically going through the motions of worship did not bring the comforting illumination of love and hope I was seeking. I had to pause, study, acknowledge. I had to make his birth real again. That is why I have this precious, old, imperfect nativity set.

I am finally ready for Christmas.


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