When you get married at Christmastime a whole lot of Christmas shows up at your door.
It’s like the world wants to give you a Christmas send-off.
We got Christmas plates.
And Christmas ornaments.
And Christmas wreaths.
And light up banners that blink and sing and say Merry Christmas.
And a giant Santa with a mail slot where people can drop off Christmas cards.
This hand-stitched nativity.
My grandmother gave it to me.
I can’t even imagine the time and the effort and the workmanship that went into creating this entire set of three wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a shepherd, a camel and a sheep.
In shameful Christmas news?
At the time she gave it to me, all of the hours and hours and hours of work she had spent was totally lost on me.
I was young.
I was full of Christmas decorating opinions.
I knew everything about everything.
I knew it all.
And the one thing I knew is that I wanted new and modern and sparkly and every last little Christmas detail totally coordinated and matchy and magazine-worthy.
All that sparkle and coordination and new and modern certainly…
…did not include a hand-stitched nativity by my grandmother.
I packed it away.
I wrapped it in tissue and relegated it to the bottom of the Christmas bins.
You know. The one you open and look into and shrug your shoulders and roll your eyes and think why am I even keeping all this?
And you close it up until next year.
Years and years and years went by.
My grandmother passed away.
And still, the nativity sat, tucked away, forlorn and neglected.
One Christmas I decided I was down-sizing. I was going to get rid of all the Christmas stuff I didn’t need and didn’t want and didn’t decorate with anymore. And I finally opened the bin I had been shrugging at all these years and found this nativity set at the bottom. When I caught my first glimpse of it again, I almost gasped.
I saw it with new eyes.
I saw my grandmother’s curly head bending over each piece, stitching and stitching and stitching every tiny detail with her gnarled hands. I saw the hours she spent tenderly, carefully, sweetly crafting an heirloom for generations to come.
I saw the love in every line.
With her gift, she was teaching me what truly matters.
Wise men stitched by a wise woman.
She wanted me to understand that Christmas isn’t simply about the sparkly and the shiny and the new.
That Christmas isn’t about a perfect home and a perfect ornament display.
That Christmas isn’t about what you don’t have.
Or what you want.
Or what you are going to get.
It’s about what you give.
It’s about taking a moment for someone in need.
It’s about celebrating all the gifts you have already been given.
It’s about reminding yourself about what’s truly important.
It’s about the joy that took place all those years ago on an imperfect Bethlehem night….
…and a nativity stitched from the heart.