Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Getting ready for Christmas

Decorating for Christmas was interesting this year. Since we’ve moved into a smaller house I had to make some hard decisions on how to fit everything in. Like most people we’ve acquired Christmas decorations that have become part of the family. And, even if you only see them for a few weeks a year, they’re such a part of the season that you can’t imagine a Christmas without them. I gave some things to the kids and had to decide which others to keep or store. Do I still set out Fluffy’s bowl? The dog died 15 years ago but I continued to set her Snoopy dish under the table and hang her collar on the tree. We always enjoyed having Fluffy with us in spirit at Christmas. Hearing her collar jingle brought her back to us again for the holidays. She was our favorite of all the dogs we’ve had. She was infinitely patient with the girls while they were growing up. It wasn’t unusual to see Fluffy walk into the living room wearing their underpants on her head, a quiet sigh in her eyes. But now we have a whole herd of dogs and it’s time to move on. I sent the Snoopy bowl home with Emily.

The two decorations I couldn’t give up were the tin toy horse that was my Daddy’s when he was a boy. When my step-mother gave it to me she said it had never missed a Christmas with us and it never will. At the other end of my father’s lifespan is a ceramic pieta of Mary holding Jesus. My grandmother made for him when she was in a nursing home at the end of her life. The idea of Grandmother making this craft when she wasn’t a “crafty” woman and making it for her son always touched me.

But my favorite decoration to set out is always the Nativity Scene. It’s grown a little each year as we add new pieces to the crowd visiting the baby Jesus. It can’t compare to the elegant ceramic one the church sets out in the Narthex each Advent.

No, our nativity set at home is a humble assortment of several sets with missing pieces all combined into one. We’ve ended up with several angels of all sizes and shapes. It’s a little old and worn; after all, it’s survived two little girls. A lot of the delicate parts of the animals are broken. A couple of camel legs and most of the lambs’ limbs are gone. The angel’s wings, of course, have suffered also. But I’m not sure I really trust a nativity set with a complete set of angel wings. That usually means that children haven’t been allowed to touch it. We all need to touch the Nativity and make it our own. We need to move the sheep and shepherds around a little bit. We all need to hold the Baby Jesus.

And the snowman in our Nativity is also showing his age. Emily made it in kindergarten almost 30 years ago. He’s made out of some sort of soapflake clay-like concoction. He was white years ago but has turned sort of brown with age. One side of him has a black splotch where an advent candle got too close to him. His nose has ended up nearer his chin than the center of his face. And his head falls off if we move him at all.

Emily is always embarrassed when I bring him out to put in the nativity. She can’t understand why I insist on including him every year. Her main argument is not his appearance; she claims that snowmen do not belong in Nativity scenes.

That’s where she’s wrong. The snowman is us: he’s you and me. I’ve always thought we should include something from our modern day in with the usual ancient characters. We belong there, too. We stand by the shepherds and watch for the Messiah. We’re just as awed and puzzled as the others. Sometimes we’re brown from age and have trouble keeping our heads on tight. But, make no mistake, we’re there alongside Mary and Joseph.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas this year. Don’t forget your snowman.

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