Years ago, when my children were small, we bought our first nativity scene. It is a small tabletop version, made in Israel out of wood, and the characters are very simply whittled. I remember our family discussing which character was which, because they were so similar and the faces were only roughly carved, and most years we have the same conversation, always trying to remember who is who.
One year, my oldest learned in Sunday school that the Magi did not arrive on Christmas Eve as is so often portrayed, but it is more likely that their journey took them somewhat longer, perhaps even as long as two years. With this knowledge firmly implanted, my daughter decided that we should not put the wise men in the manger scene until after Christmas, and that also the baby Jesus should not be in the manger until Christmas morning.
So, every year, when we decorate the house and put out the creche, the kids take the three wise men and set them someplace else in the house, far away from the nativity scene, and every day the kids move them a little closer, until a few days after Christmas when the little figurines finally find their way to the stable. Baby Jesus gets hidden away, with the kids taking turns each year on who gets to hide him, and late at night on Christmas Eve the little Jesus baby appears in his manger-bed.
The kids started out thinking this was all a big joke, but as the years have advanced, they have taken their duties more seriously, and even to this day, with my son now a father himself, they still manage to find a way to make this happen. A few years ago, I bought an inflatable outdoor nativity scene, and sure enough, the manger has a little zippered compartment where baby Jesus lies hidden, and my son comes over on Christmas morning to let Jesus out. It’s sweet and funny all at the same time, but it is one of our enduring traditions and I look forward to watching it play out every year.
Jan Shannon is a full-time seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, a wife, mom, granny, and gay Christian.
Jan’s post reminds me that I created a new tradition with my own children that they just wont let me stop doing: every year we read The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden. I break it up into two nights of reading, and my now grown children, still snuggle up to hear it! They each own a copy of the story…perhaps someday they will read it to their children.