Her Nativity

II am mother to a rambunctious two year old with ringlet curls, big brown eyes and a recently adapted thick southern drawl.  She keeps me on my toes and guessing on the dullest days and the crazy ones she leaves me breathless in every imaginable way.

This is her nativity as I like it to be: (For the most part that is, we are currently AWOL One wiseman and sheep, they are on a tour of another part of the house at the moment)

This is a classic nativity set-up, with the wide eyed animals, Mary and Joseph looking lovingly over a beautiful baby in a manger.  All the while the angel up top brings a glorious and heavenly presence to the classic scene.

Now, this is her nativity the way she likes it to be: (I actually had to fudge it a bit to get it all on the table, she usually scatters the figured all over the living room and kitchen)

A lifetime ago I had a friend named Jen and one December and we sat together, cross legged and watched her little boys playing on the floor.  As we chatted she explained to me that she was intentional about providing her children a nativity that they could interact with, so they could experience the Christmas story on their level.  Ever since that conversation I have been in love with this idea and my amazing “mom” Sandy blessed our family with this Little People set over the weekend.  When I sat with Jen that day and imagined my future children interacting with the Christmas Story “on their level” I thought they would finger the pieces with wonder and awe and maybe use it to put on a play of Luke 2 in our living room.

Instead in the past 48 hours my daughter has:

– tried to use her pink cart to “grocery shop for Jesus”
– Used the camel as a bowling ball and the three wisemen as pins.
– Put the cow on top of the stable and told me that it was silly to have an angel up there
– and repeatedly showed me how fast her angel flies by throwing it like a missile across the living room

Kel and I have the immense privilege and gift of shaping the manger scene for our daughter, of drizzling truth into her two year old world and setting the stage for every Christmas to come.  On the one hand I don’t want to be the nativity nazi and steal all her fun and wonder.  But on the other hand I feel like these biblical little people deserve more respect than our circus or farm set gets.

Mainly: I don’t want to stifle her Christmas experience.  Even though she is only two, this Christmas will speak to the next, which will speak to the next, and so on.  These interactions, this year, this Christmas are lovely and will echo in all her Christmases to come.  Instead of being frustrated with how she interacts with the story I have to remember that it is God who knit together my baby girl.  Every stitch intentional and on purpose.  It was our shared father who filled her with energy, who breathed into her a creative spirit that would one day come up with camel-wiseman bowling.  So now instead of yelling at her for not nativity-ing my way, I try take several opportunities each day to gather up the pieces and patiently explain the story over and over again.

This evening we had a beautiful breakthrough as we were putting baby Jesus to bed and saying night night to the camel.

As I was getting our little guy ready for bed, Kel was helping Noelle arrange the nativity set for the night.  As as she picked up the little Mary some lovely words floated through our living room.  Kel explained to her that she was holding Mary, who was Jesus’ mommy.  A spark of understanding flashed across her face and as she put Mary in the stable next to Jesus she said: “It’s okay Baby Jesus, it’s okay, its your mommy.”

When I heard that, I cried and vowed that I was done losing my patience with nativity play, whatever tomorrow may bring.  Tonight something clicked that spurs me to persevere.  Tonight a spark of divine understanding met up with her two year old heart.  She connected with the story of her God, and oh my God…. so did I.