Embers from the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad-Parish Community
A Nativity Set – December 24, 2020
The figures are all in place, save one. It’s not really theologically correct because all the
familiar pieces are there already and have been for a couple of weeks. Even though Mary and
Joseph must have been alone for a good while that first Christmas night until the shepherds
made it in from the fields to see the sight that the angels sang of. And tradition has it that the
Magi did not reach Bethlehem until some time after the birth; we will celebrate their arrival the
Sunday after Christmas. But they are also here kneeling in anticipation, gifts at the ready.
The animals are here too. Some sheep scattered around the shepherds to help with
their identification. Two camels – one standing, but another laying down seeming to rest after
a long journey. The ox lays down also, but the donkey is standing, maybe he wants to ready
should he be needed again.
The Nativity set is not valuable. The pieces are simple plaster cast. They were painted
by Michelle’s Mom. Michelle remembers watching her mother paint the pieces when she was a
little girl. She had a steady hand – not a master’s touch, but competent. The donkey has a
chipped ear, but otherwise they are in pretty good condition considering that they have been
packed away and brought back out probably over 50 times. They have been boxed up and
shipped nearly cross country and back when we lived in Nevada for three years. You can just
angle the donkey a bit and the broken ear is hardly noticeable.
This Holy Family doesn’t even have a stable. I built one for them for our first Christmas
together – the Christmas Michelle’s mother asked if we wanted the set because they didn’t put
them out any more and frankly, we had no money for a set of our own. We took them gladly.
They connected us to Christmas and to family – a double gift. The stable only survived a couple
of years; I recall that it didn’t survive that move to Nevada. So now we just set the pieces out
on a little cotton blanket of snow. They have been under the Christmas tree, on the fireplace
mantle, on the sofa table. Lately they seem to have found a home on the third shelf of the
armoire. It’s a good spot. They are high enough to not be at risk of accidental breakage, but
low enough that the grandkids can see and touch them. They aren’t for play and the kids know
that, but no one should be afraid to touch, to hold them, and ponder.
Of course, the missing piece will be added on Christmas Eve, after we return from
celebrating Mass. I pray that he finds our hearts prepared and ready. He knows that we have
been waiting anxiously for him – the little plaster pieces and us. May he feel welcome here.
Emmanuel – God with us.
Peace on Earth to all hearts of good will,