I didn’t get married until January of 1973, so while shopping for Christmas presents the months previous, I found a beautiful old-fashioned Nativity set on sale that I bought for my hope chest. It is all wood and the figures, the people and the animals, are made of sturdy clay. It has the look of old European artwork, so I fell in love with it the moment I saw it at the store.
It has graced my Christmas tree every year for the last forty-two years. It is the first thing we set out before a single ornament is hung. Each of my three children has played with the figures and I encourage each of my grandchildren to do the same. I like knowing that when they hold the baby in their hands, they are acknowledging who is the cause for all the celebration.
The “grass” has worn thin in some areas and some of the brittle wood has chipped off the ends, even the angel fell off its pegs years ago so we hitch her at an angle onto a plank that sticks out of the roof.
It has seen several artificial trees, some tall and some short. It has graced some magnificent real firs in some years. It even towered over a small table-top tree the year I got divorced and I could not afford Christmas for my three children and myself.
There was the year that we could not find the box in which it was stored and I feared we had lost it altogether. It showed up, hidden in a back corner of the garage, behind a pile of plastic storage boxes filled with auto parts.
People buy me Nativity sets and I have quite a few. They are expensive and more beautiful and definitely more glamorous, but they could never replace that one. It represents the dreams of a dreamy-eyed, twenty-two year old woman, but while my family and faith and future did not turn out how I thought it would, I am grateful that it turned out the way it did.