The Best Gift of Christmas
How do we instill in our children a sincere knowledge of the Best Gift of Christmas? My mother blessed me with that knowledge at a very early age. She made it incredibly easy to understand.
At an early age she made Christmas special to me and my three younger sisters. We decorated the house early, usually by the first Sunday in Advent. My mother’s most prized possession was a Nativity set. We would anticipate finding the Stable with the Manger and its special figurines each year with great excitement as we opened the storage boxes that held the Christmas decorations.
We would set up the Stable in a prominent place in the Living Room. A place that we were all able to see easily, a place that was accessible to a child’s hands, a place where we could all touch and handle the figures within the Stable. This place was called Bethlehem. At first the Stable would only house a Cow, maybe a sheep and an empty manger. The shepherds with their sheep would watch over the Stable from the Dining Room China Cabinet, it was a far away hill. Mary, Joseph and the donkey were placed across the room from the Stable, on the piano, this place was called Nazareth, from which they started their month long journey to the Stable in Bethlehem. They would travel from place to place in our home. Mary and Joseph would rest each night on a kitchen counter, the dining room table or an end table in the living room; each night getting ever closer to their final destination, the Stable in Bethlehem.
Finally it was Christmas Eve, the most Holy night of the year! We would go to church on Christmas Eve with visions of Sugarplums, Santa, and also what was yet to come before we went to bed. When we returned home from church, Mom would read to us the Christmas story from Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Now comes the fun part….As she read to us we acted out the story. From a hiding place, usually a drawer in the China Cabinet, Mom would bring out three figures. First the baby Jesus and He would be placed into the manger as she read the story. Second the Star would be placed upon the Stable. The last was the Angel. The Angel would fly around the room proclaiming the GOOD NEWS! The Angel would fly to the far away hill (the top of the China Cabinet), singing loud HOSANNA’s and speaking with the Shepherds to tell them what has happened in Bethlehem. The Shepherds would be guided by the Star to Bethlehem so they could now be placed in the Stable to worship baby Jesus. Then the Angel would come to rest on the roof of the Stable to watch over them all.
Now you may ask “where are the Wise Men?” They are still traveling, from a far away land. Our Wise Men also have been traveling around staying a week or longer in each of the bedrooms of our home. They would travel around the room at the discretion of the child in charge for that week. They would continue to travel until 12 days after Christmas! Epiphany! This is when the Wise Men reach the stable to worship Jesus. Read Matthew 2:1-12. In reality you should know that the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem about two years after Christ was born. We also don’t know how many Wise Men there were, we assume three because of the three gifts, but it probably was many more.
My Mom also had one last task for us before we were placed in our beds. We would all go to the front door of our home, and gather in a tight little semi-circle around the door. My Mom would open the door and let in a cold blast of winter. While the door was opened we would verbally ask Christ to come into our home to share Christmas with us. We would ask Him to stay with us for the coming New Year. Finally it was off to bed with The Best Gift of Christmas still lingering in our small hearts and peace for the New Year in our souls.
My Mother continues to renew the Best Gift of Christmas as we gather each year in her home for our large family celebration. There are now 26 of us plus or minus the various girlfriends and boyfriends who may or may not eventually become permanent members. As they come and go they become witnesses to the legacy of faith for our family. My Mom now has a small plain brown paper box, on which is written “The Best Gift” and tied shut with twine. We do not open any gifts until we have opened the best gift. Each person’s name is written on the box, because the “Gift” belongs to one and all. As we all gather in the small living room of my parents home, that was designed to hold 6 not 26, my Mom once again reads the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20. Then the box, “The Best Gift” is opened by the youngest child present. The child peeps in the box and a small voice will say “It is baby Jesus!” Because nestled within some soft straw, are two things, a manger and a figurine of the baby Jesus.
I pray that you also may bring this wonderful inspired tradition into your own homes this Christmas Season. May it be a Blessing and possibly a Legacy for your children and grandchildren to discover the “Best Gift” of Christmas… Jesus Christ! Merry Christmas!
PS: My Mother Mary, yes that is her name, has more than 200 miniature nativity sets that have been given to her over the last 40 years.
How would you describe the best gift of Christmas? In what ways does your family use a Nativity set to tell the story of Jesus’ birth? Click ‘leave a comment’ and share your story, thoughts, and reflections!Throughout the season of Advent, Faith UMC has a display of nativity sets from around the world. Be sure to stop by the display in the Gathering Area!