I have always loved nativity sets, having a special fondness for the one we owned at home when I was growing up in the 1950s. I remember well the cardboard stable nestled beneath the dining room buffet, offering easy access for performance of Christmas season rituals......
During the week, we adhered religiously to what we were taught at school by Franciscan sisters. We kept track of our sacrifices and charitable acts and, at each completion, prepared a comfortable bed for the divine child by laying down a single strand of straw.
I wish I could say that I was attentive to the second part of those instructions. The good deeds were to be a guarded secret between myself and the holy infant. But more often than not, I boldly announced that I was on my way to enjoy the crib-side privilege I'd earned, inviting along anyone who wanted to watch in envy. Needless to say, the race to become the favorite big sister of baby Jesus occasionally escalated into heated, finger-pointing, not-so-friendly competition.
We sisters strayed from sainthood too, on of all days, the morning of his birth when he could finally lay down his sweet head on what was by then a very ample pillow. Instead, we raced downstairs to the magic of Christmas morning, extending him not a momentary glance or congratulatory thought. Only hours later, when gifts were no longer fresh and new, did we wade to his home through knee deep discarded paper to make things right for our newborn king.
The nativity scene at my home parish, Saint Alphonsus
And he was always there, waiting for us. Somehow I don't think he ever really minded, though. He knew he was in a place where he was loved. And I have heard that his patience and forgiveness knows no boundaries. "Love is patient. Love is kind." His words.
Love waits and forgives and understands, and chooses to be born in a plastic trough filled to the brim with strands of straw by three imperfect sisters who, with all their hearts, believed in him then, and believe in him now.......