The wise men are flattened this morning, not by the glory but because a small person has pillowed their heads on Smarties. They look extremely relaxed.
A sheep is creeping up on the manger, and various four-hoofed things are strewn about. Most of the camels and donkeys are aligned in a careful half-circle around Mary, eager to be near, though at times I find the Mother administering disciplinary action to a rogue lamb.
Her porcelain hands are chipped away from too many tumbles off end tables, too many postures of reverence, too many journeys across the piano keys.
Joseph, fixed in wonder with a hand on his heart, has lost his staff by now but not his worship. He is a loyal attendant, enjoying conversations with the wise men and lying prone from time to time as needed, because he can’t stand on the carpet.
A little golden book about the Christmas story lies open on the floor. Each scene from the illustrations is painstakingly arranged with the principal players by small fingers, and then the page is turned and the stage set again. Occasionally, the book lying open is Little House on the Prairie, and the crèche characters double as pioneers. Mary is the link on which all hinges. Joseph easily becomes Pa, and the angel, who ordinarily goes by Evelyn, changes her name to Laura.
Baby Jesus is wearing a slender yellow elastic around his head, wrapped twice to stay in place. With a bit of imagination, one can see it is a crown to honor an infant king. When he has not been born yet, he is secreted behind the stable, to be brought out at the proper time and placed in his tiny manger. Again and again. And again.
He has been invited to tea parties, where he enjoyed raisins and pretzels and little chocolate cakes. He has been rocked to sleep, lost for days and found again, cupped in dimpled hands, kissed, and tenderly bathed in a Tupperware bathtub. His fair neck has a ring of glue around it from old injuries.
With the eyes of my soul I see the Lord himself, no porcelain now but spirit and flesh, receiving to his heart the loving ministrations of a child. Who is he to be a stranger to the mundane? Is he likely to reject the clumsy and common, the yellow hair elastics and the raisins?
He who entered here into our world and lay on grasses dried for the feeding of animals is familiar with the workings of plebeian life. This is not the first time he was offered an unusual beverage. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is with us, for us, in us: Emmanuel.
I like to see his likeness resting in my daughter’s lap.
CONTRIBUTOR: Shari Zook