When the Nativity figures aren’t scattered throughout our house, I usually find that one of my children has set them up something like this.
Now if it were up to (anal) me, the people and myriad animals would be set up in a more orderly fashion and spread out a bit more, but there’s something beautiful about how my kids always position nearly every figure to be looking at the empty cradle. From the camel to the shepherd boy, they are waiting, looking for their Savior to be born. We hide Baby Jesus in our house until Christmas morning when all the kids set out to search for Him. This serves as a reminder that Advent is a time to prepare for Jesus and that we will keep searching for Him until Christmas Day.
When I discovered our Nativity scene set up in its usual manner the other day, it struck me that there are a handful of us who are looking to Christ rather than being distracted by everything else around us during this busy season. I happen to be more like that Wise Man on the left who is looking away from Jesus and looks almost as if he’s holding his hands up in exasperation and has fallen down upon his knees not in worship but in exasperation, especially when I discovered this morning that our finished basement had flooded worse than it ever has before even though we’ve certainly had more rainfall than we did over the past few days. At least my 2-year-old and 4-year-old had fun jumping in puddles. I just wish the little lakes weren’t inside our house.
In other times of my life, I’ve been more like the sheep on the right. He has no clue what’s going on behind me. Neither does that donkey on the left who is looking out the window. I’ve wandered aimlessly. I’ve looked anywhere but toward God. I don’t where Christ is or even if He is. Ah, to be human and an over-analytical one at that.
But here’s the thing. Jesus was born in that manger not just for the passionate believers but for everyone even those who didn’t recognize Him as King or at all. We were looking away from Him, but He was looking right at us, waiting for us to glance in His direction. He was there to seize our hearts, our lives. He still is whether we believe it or not.
I’ve always loved that line from the movie The Count of Monte Cristo:
Edmond Dantes: I don’t believe in God.
Abbe Faria: It doesn’t matter. He believes in you.
This Christmas I hope to be one of the faithful, one of the ones who is looking toward Christ, not away from Him. I want to look past the cookie crumbs on the floor and the fact that my willpower around said cookies has been ridiculously low over the past few days. I long to embrace my children’s effusion of joy (also known as insane hyperactivity) and to be focused more on love than on the tyranny of to-do lists or the appearance of having everything together and perfect. I don’t want to let the Great Flood of 2013 to cause me to freak out (again; I can only apologize for freak out # 1). I don’t want to run away from the Prince of Peace when I need Him the most. Last Christmas I recall another calamitous episode that involved a mountain of mismatched shoes and lots of tiny bare feet just before the Christmas Eve Mass. I too often look for the wrong kind of perfection: flood-free basements, perfectly pressed smocked dresses, well-mannered children and well-mannered mamas to boot when the real Perfection is right there in the manger. I’m the only one who can rob myself of joy. Fortunately, I’m also the only one who can take a hold of that joy as well.
I want to be just as my children would have it: Part of a motley crew who knows where to look and understands that sometimes you just have to set your eyes on what’s to come and be joyful in the meantime.