Maggie finished her list and glanced over it one last time, adding gold spray paint for the pine cones, before cramming it into her purse.
“Come on, Jordan. Zip your jacket before we go outside,” she said. “Three weeks til Christmas, with a lot left to do.”
Jordan hardly heard a word as he played with the nativity set Maggie had carefully placed, tastefully, among an assortment of colorful decorations.
“Let’s go,” she repeated two times, pulling out a second list while waiting. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was forgetting something.
Returning home two hours later with a van load of shopping bags, Maggie sorted through the items bought, thinking to herself, “I know I’m forgetting something.” Just then, the delivery truck pulled into the driveway. Noticing the return address on the package, she knew it was Jordan’s train set. Deciding to store it in the brown, well-sealed box until bedtime, Maggie went to her desk and pulled out her gift list. As she checked off the train, she was thankful there were only three more gifts to be purchased. Those could be bought at the big sale she always counted on at her favorite department store, two days before Christmas.
“What am I forgetting?” she asked aloud, picking up the unsealed Christmas cards from the desk.
“Jordan, would you like to help Mommy put stamps on the cards this year?”
No response. “Jordan, where are you?”
As Maggie stepped into living room, she found him, once again, standing in front of the nativity set, playing with the animals.
“Jordan, could you help me with the cards? You can write in Grandma’s,” coaxing her four-year-old to write a message to her mom, not yet a fan of e-mail, who loved getting little notes and pictures the old-fashioned way.
Jordan, ignoring her question, posed his own.
“Mom, why were there animals in the house with the baby?”
“What? Whose baby?” she asked.
“Baby Jesus,” he said, turning toward her as he cradled the tiny ceramic piece in his hands.
Maggie knelt beside him and looked into his concerned face. “Jesus isn’t in a house; this is a manger. He was born in a stable. You know, the place where horses and other animals live. The sheep were visiting with the shepherds. Jordan, you’ve heard the Christmas story.”
“I know, Mommy, but it’s been a long time. I just forgot,” he said, trying to remember.
“Last Christmas,” Maggie whispered to herself. That’s when she realized what she had forgotten to remember. With all her careful planning, of perfect gifts and decorations to create a traditional holiday, she had eliminated almost all traces of the original Christmas.
Maggie laid the cards aside, put off baking for another day, and closed the drawer on her lists. That day, she began recreating the first Christmas, using the nativity scene, reading from Luke 2, sharing the greatest story ever told, with her son. Each day until Christmas, they would try to imagine life as it was on that very first Christmas Day.
When the holidays were over, decorations removed, guests returned home, Maggie and Jordan carefully wrapped and packed away the now familiar nativity set. The stories, however, didn’t end with the season, because the one that began once upon a time, in a small town long ago, continues today. Maggie wisely decided her greatest priority would always be the rest of the story; after all, Christmas was just the beginning.
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