I have always wanted a nativity scene. Something that would remind me of the holiness of the season, rather than just the glitz and bling of a shiny Christmas tree, surrounded by bright parcels.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the fun side of Christmas. The gathering with family, the gifts, given and received, the food – ah yes, those mince pies and ginger, chipolata sausages and roast potatoes (and the turkey, of course, but that’s a bit down the list of favourites). I enjoy hearing from friends, seeing the smiles of children, celebrating at teas and breakfasts and the occasional party.

But, for me, that is not really what Christmas is about. I wanted something to remind me of the reason we celebrate. And so I looked for years and years for just the right nativity scene to put up in my home.

There were all sorts.  In fact, once I visited a museum (in Nashville – some of you may know it) where they had one hundred nativity scenes from all around the world.  Even those, as beautiful as they were, did not quite fit the picture I had in my mind.

Then my husband died, just before Christmas. The day came and went in a blur, but the peace of Christ flowed through me and in a way I was grateful that I celebrated the ‘first’ Christmas without him so soon after his passing.

The following year, just before the second Christmas I went into a shop looking for a gift for a friend.

And there it was. The nativity scene I had sought for so many years.  Simple, beautiful, holy.

I did a few sums.  I would buy the main stable scene, and then, on impulse, I added the shepherds.  I took it home and put it up and it brought me great joy.  And has done so ever since.

The third Christmas I invested in the three kings to add to it.  And I say ‘invest’ intentionally, because this little scene, these little pieces, remind me of the joy, the reverence and the love of that first Christmas.  I have never found a star, so I have a little handmade star of straw that I put above the figure of Mary, cradling her baby.

The scene is brought out from its boxes as early in December as I can arrange it and goes away again on Twelfth Night so I can enjoy it for as long as possible.

This reminder of God’s love for us is a gift to me from Him.  The fact that I found it at that time when I knew I would be waking up alone on that Christmas morning was His way of saying, “I am here.”

The pieces are no idols. They are not worshipped in any way, for those who may think that. I know who my God is. And He is celebrated in my home, year by year.

This year I have no tree. No tinsel or baubles. Just the nativity scene. For this is the reason for Christmas and I celebrate the birth of my Lord in a quiet, holy way this year – for that is what I believe He is calling me to do.  Next year, maybe, there will be decorations again. But this year there are none.

“Today, in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord … Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.” Luke 2:11, 14

May you have a happy and holy Christmas this year.  God bless you.

About Mandy Hackland

My love in life is to encourage others to deepen their relationship with God. I write devotional material, stories and small group studies with that in mind. I live in South Africa and also love spending time in the bush, bird watching and walking. I have moved to the coast and am enjoying the green spaces and beautiful vistas that surround me, reminding me of God's grace every day.
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