An email from a friend reminded me that I do need to put in words how it is that we decided to do a nativity. Hubby & I started out with our daughter at a typical church (ok, not so typical for Georgia – it is a very liberal Episcopal), but soon found that much of the story was not what we really felt comfortable bringing into our home. We now carve out our own path, including a Sun Day circle we do with some other families in a garden each week. It is a lot more work to organize everything, but for now, it is the best fit for us.
So what does the Nativity story give us? Or, how is it we tell (& retell) this story that brings a nourishment to our souls? hmmm. . . there are many different aspects to the answer, but I’ll start with looking at nature. In our part of the world, in late November/early December it is getting cool and dark. We fell back an hour a month ago and now at even our early dinner it is dark outside. The leaves are mostly off the trees, the bulbs, bugs and worms are going down for their rest. Nature, even ‘in town’ where we live is preparing for a rest. This rest is needed to prepare for the rejuvenation of spring.
While I might at times sweep it away or try to overcome or ignore parts of my upbringing, the nativity story is a part of the culture in which I was raised. It is what my folks do. And for me now, by taking charge of how we celebrate this story, I can still have a foot in my past . . . a touchstone in this place & time where I was born and raised. I can have my cake and eat it too.
We use the nativity story to slow down and pace our lives from late November through early January. We use the western christian calendar starting with the first Sunday of Advent. On our nature table (term used interchangeably with family altar), is covered in dark blue silks and we bring out Mary and the Angel. They have a chat and the angel tells her that she is going to have a baby. From there she begins her journey. At this early part of the journey, there is only Mary heading out to some unseen thing. The table is still empty at this point and I like to imagine that is similar to many a journey taken. We can’t always see the end or even around the next bend. We just have to keep taking one step at a time.
Well, each day Mary takes a step and each day a little gold star is left in her trail. Our daughter was six this past Advent season and we have been doing the trail of stars since she was one. She still delights in running out each morning to count the stars. Ok, maybe now she is just checking up on me to make sure I moved Mary and put out the new star, but the end result is the same. In a time when many are busy feeding the give-me, commercialism machine, we have been able to slow down at least a bit. YAY!
Even when Mary’s journey to Bethlehem is complete, we spend the next 12 days watching the Wise Men as they make their journey following the star to find the child. In our house the Wise Men move around the living room on the shelves above cat reach. So if you are keeping up on the math, we are looking at almost a month and a half that we have a small daily moment that brings us to the nature table. Yes, we do our share of making and baking during the holiday season and we have gatherings and outings that we rush off to attend, but for a moment each day, we are reminded that journeys are taken just one step at a time.
It is just this past year that there has been any talk about why this particular birth is celebrated each year. Hmmm . . . that is a biggie.
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