It’s a baby

We decked some of our halls today.  I put up the tree, and we hung the stockings. The collection of little wooden pine trees that I would like to artfully arrange near the hearth have been arranged from largest to smallest and named. The upper branches of the tree have glass ornaments on them. The middle third is empty. The very lowest branches each have roughly 12 ornaments on them. We’re close.

I gave Selam the task of setting up the nativity scene. I put the stable on the counter of the china cabinet, and opened the plastic bin containing all the people and animals, and then left her in charge.

She kept coming up to me, figurine in hand, “Is this Joseph?” “No, that’s a king…see his crown?” “Is this Joseph?” “No, that’s a shepherd–see, he has a crook in hand.” “Oh.” “What will Joseph look like?” “He’s going to be kneeling on the ground, like Mary.” “Oh…”

I guess I thought she remembered the nativity we had out before. I thought she remembered the neat tableau with shepherds on one side and kings on the other, each angled slightly toward the baby, so that the audience could still see the crowns and sheep, crooks and gifts. The stable–my father built it for me–is the perfect size for the Holy Family. The shepherds and livestock go on the left and the kings on the right. The angel–she moves around year to year.

Maybe she remembered. Maybe she didn’t. I told her it was her job.

In any case, she came and got me to show off the nativity she’d set up.

All the characters and sheep and cattle and goats were crammed elbow to elbow inside the stable. All you can see are Mary and Joseph’s backs.  Only the angel is outside, standing at annunciation attention at the front, a celestial bouncer guarding the entrance.

She pulls Joseph and Mary aside a bit, “see, there’s the baby” she whispers, pointing with a tiny finger.

“What are all the people and animals doing inside the stable?” I asked.

“They’re watching the baby sleep.”


“Is it crowded in there?”


We’re still whispering.

“But everybody just wants to see the Baby Jesus, so they don’t mind being crowded.”


“What is the angel doing?”

“She’s saying Glory to God in the highest, and telling the people ‘come in here, you have to see this baby. He’s a really, really good baby. Come look. Come look.'”

She cups her hands up like a megaphone, and whispers again,

“Come. Look.”

And so, I do.



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