A friend of mine called just before Thanksgiving to ask me to write a short Christmas story featuring at least six children's characters. She has a studio in her home and records books, so came up with the great idea to record a story as a gift for her parents and other family members that included the voice recordings of her six nieces and nephews. Since she is not a writer, she asked three writers she knows to write a 4,000-word story. Two of us took up the challenge. My story, "The Christmas Glitch," is about Santa's elves. The other is about Christmas Zombies ... just another reminder that we all think (and write) with a different voice.
Her project got me to thinking about the fact that the ability to write is a gift -- a gift we can share with others. The Holidays offer the perfect opportunity to pick up your pen and write something you can share: a Christmas story, a Christmas memory, a song, a quip or a poem. Wrap it up, decorate it with a bow and set it under the Christmas tree.
I wrote this poem a couple of years ago after setting out the nativity set from my childhood. I read it aloud on Christmas Eve, then upon request, sent copies to my family members. Back in the 50s, nativity figures were sold individually and families would build their own scenes, rather than buying them as complete sets. Buying the figures, watching our nativity scene grow and setting the nativity scene out year after year are wonderful memories for me. The set was passed down to me in 1976 and setting it out each year never loses its charm.
Our Christmas Manger
I set them out just once each year,
Those old chipped figures so very dear.
I arrange each one with loving care,
This one here ... that one there.
We bought each figure one at a time,
A family trip to the five-and-dime.
We gazed at rows of figures on display
Knowing we could choose only one that day.
It seemed each year we would argue and fight,
Should we add a camel with blanket bright?
Or a donkey or a cow or a shepherd kneeling?
Each plaster figure seemed so appealing.
We would reach consensus and soon were done,
Mom paid twenty-nine cents for the chosen one.
Home we rushed to put it in place,
Then spread straw carefully around its base.
Then came the year we faced the fact,
There were no more figures that we lacked.
We had them all, each figure was there,
Our stable was full under starlight’s glare.
Still, we continued to add another sheep or two,
And our flock of sheep just grew and grew.
They filled up the manger and surrounded the stable,
Then frolicked and free-ranged across the table.
But the set we gathered was carefully tended.
One special year the nativity passed to me,
A special tradition for my own family.
Our wisemen are dressed in colors bold,
Bearing gifts of frankincense and gold.
Each wears a crown upon his head,
Standing near the infant’s bed.
Our shepherd’s nighttime vigil keep,
Surrounded by those large flocks of sheep.
Our angels, glowing from afar,
The whole scene lit by wondrous star …
That shines down gently on Joseph’s head
And Mary, kneeling by baby’s bed …
And gives light for the whole world to see,
The miracle of the nativity.
As I unwrapped the figures this year,
I realized each one becomes still more dear.
Although chipped and cracked, I'll forever keep,
That broken-horned cow and that three-legged sheep …
Who gazed in wonder under starlight bright,
At the miracle of Christ’s birth that wondrous night.
MJH - 2006
NOTE: Not all sheep are shown.