For more than 20 years, decking the halls has always begun with assembling the Nativity. Call it a nod to the reason for the season or simply a warm-up to the time-consuming tree trimming; my porcelain Nativity is always the first decoration of the season.
In the past 20 years, my Nativity has seen its fair share of wear and tear. It’s been moved countless times, logging more miles than the Three Wise Men on their quest to find Baby Jesus. The crèche is a bit mangled, with one of the posts that supports the roof warped and scratched. And the gold paint adorning the angel and Wise Men is faded and chipped in places. But it is the Nativity I bought when my own daughter was born and the one from her childhood, so it is the only Nativity for me.
Baby Jesus has survived more than his fair share of trauma. When my daughter Megan was a toddler, I would frequently find tiny porcelain Jesus removed from his manger and wrapped in pieces of Kleenex or toilet paper. Exasperated, I finally asked Megan why she continued to disobey me and touch breakable Jesus.
Her beautiful green eyes, round with fear at my anger, filled with tears as she explained that Baby Jesus looked cold and she was trying to keep him warm.
Touched by her tiny, tender heart’s compassion for cold, naked Jesus, I brushed the tears from her eyes and mine. I told her we would wrap Baby Jesus up together, and then leave him swaddled for the rest of Christmas.
She happily agreed and busied her little fingers, carefully wrapping Jesus in Kleenex, while my own hands served as spotter and safety net in case she dropped him.
She didn’t. And, for the rest of the season, she left Baby Jesus untouched, nestled warmly in his Kleenex swaddling clothes, lying in the manger.
A few years ago, Baby Jesus suffered major trauma. Knocked from his manger by over zealous dusting, he hit the ground. His arm broke clean off, and several bits of his chipped body scattered in pieces on the floor.
I gasped in horror. What kind of karma does one get for breaking the Son of God during Christmas?!
Thanks to Gorilla Glue and a magnifying glass, I surgically reattached the Savior’s arm and glued most of his body back together. You have to look carefully now to see where Jesus has been broken and chipped.
This year, while placing broken Jesus in his manger, I thought about all of the years I have repeated this ritual. Some years it has been easy and joyful. In other years, the brokenness of my own life has tinged the ritual with sorrow; even anger.
Broken Jesus has become more precious to me because of the years and the miles we have traveled – and survived – together. Gazing down at his naked porcelain body, I realized broken Jesus is exactly the Savior my manger – and my life – needs.
This year, I am surrounded by so much brokenness in life. People I love are fighting cancer and without jobs. Terrorists are blowing up people and countries. The economy remains uncertain. There are big questions in my professional and personal life with no answers in sight.
Each one of these issues is another chip from my individual and our collective wholeness. News headlines splinter and shatter any sense of well-being or safety. With a few words, a doctor’s diagnosis sends shards of life flying in all directions.
All of this brokenness was reflected back to me this year as I placed broken Jesus in his manger. More than ever, I realize how much strength I draw from the story of a Savior who fell to earth and became broken like me. For me. In these moments, when I am keenly aware of life coming apart, I am grateful for His grace; the glue that mends and restores.
Merry broken Christmas. A thrill of hope; a weary world rejoices, indeed.