|artist Gillian Lawson|
It was my "job" as a child to set up the manger scene. For me, it was a bit like playing with a doll house, only with Baby Jesus. Where exactly should the cattle be? What about the sheep? I think the sheep should be close to the Baby.
My parents' Nativity set was purchased just after they were married in 1947, at a five and dime. (If you're too young to know what a five and dime is, it's the equivalent to today's dollar stores.) Some of the figurines still have faint pencil markings on the bottom: 10 cents, a nickel.
We actually don't know many details about the Nativity. If the inns were full due to the census, that means there must have been a lot of women in Bethlehem. Some of them must have caught wind that some poor dear had given birth in the barn. They must have rushed to help: a few soft cloths to wrap the baby in, some hot food, checking in to see if the New Mother needed anything.
The Nativity scene for me is a rich one for meditation. Apparently, G.K. Chesterton felt the same way. He wrote a poem, The House of Christmas; here is one stanza:
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.