I pulled hard on the rope to bring down the old familiar stairs to the attic. I was overwhelmed with excitement as I climbed, finding it hard to believe it was Christmas time already. Carefully, I carried each box down the stairs.
I donít know exactly when my daddy built the Nativity stable but, now that I was nine, it became my job each year to bring all the Christmas boxes down from the attic and set up the Nativity under the tree.
My eyes scanned each box until, finally, I saw it: ďNativityĒ scratched in bold letters across the dented and scarred cardboard. I began to unwrap each figurine until all that was left was the stable. I decided before I continued, I needed music, so I wound up the music box as far as it would go. As I reached carefully into the box to retrieve the stable, I listened to to the music box play Silent Night. I gently placed the stable under the scantly decorated Christmas tree and, one by one, placed all the figures in the manger. First Mary and Joseph, then baby Jesus. The animals and the wise men came last. In the hours soon to come, my family and me would spend time together decorating the tree.
I loved this time of year (still do!) but I especially loved that Nativity scene. There was something miraculous in the wonder of it all. Emmanuel had come to earth to save us from our sins. And, although I didnít understand it all, it brought such joy to my young heart.
Many years have passed since that time, but every year at Christmas I would set up the Nativity under the tree, just like I had the year before and the year before that. I was probably in my early teens before I lost interest in the tradition and we stopped it altogether. Sadly enough, life got in the way and I rarely thought of that old Nativity, until about six years ago. Iím not really sure what made me think of it after all those years, but I remembered how much that Nativity had once meant to me. I asked my parents about it and they were only able to locate the figurines, but not the stable. They mailed me the figurines that, needless to say, were in pretty bad shape. But, somehow, the Nativity just wasnít the same without the stable.
I canít tell you how many times I have thought of that Nativity in the past few years. Maybe itís because mom and dad are both gone now and that was one memory I still treasure from those times I was a child.
My sister and I visited my dad January of last year to celebrate his 90th birthday. It was such a fun time. Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived as, soon after we left, he became ill and was put in the hospital. He passed from this life in May of last year. The days following his death were difficult as I processed so many emotions. I was not only grieving over my dadís passing, but we also had to clean out the house where he and mom lived for so many years. We had many wonderful memories in that house. And, there were all the things mom and dad had saved. As we cleaned each nook and cubby, those memories came alive. We shed many tears that day.
ďHey,ď my nephew yelled,ď whatís up there?Ē I was so engrossed in packing things up, I barely noticed what was going on. But, he had managed to hoist himself up through a crawl space in the ceiling to see what was inside. It was seriously dusty, but he didnít care, he pressed on. First, he found my dadís old shoeshine box, another thing my dad had built, and then an old suitcase. And, then it happened. He came across a large black garbage bag with something in it. By this time, he had my attention as we all helped him bring the bag down out of the tiny space he had managed to squeeze himself into. To my surprise and delight, there it was ― a little rickety and in need of a good dusting, but it was right there in all its glory, the stable from the old Nativity. I burst into tears and thanked God for this special gift. A gift that, although worn and forgotten, reminded me of my dear mom and dad and a sweet tradition from long ago that once drew me to Jesus.
Right now, as I write this story, the stable is being repaired by a special friend whom I trust with my life. Iím listening to Silent Night and sipping a cup of hot tea, and looking forward to placing the stable, once again, under my Christmas tree.
ďThis is how God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.Ē 1 John 4:9
May the peace He promised be yours this Christmas and all through the coming year.
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