Monday, December 19, 2016

The Empty Manger

"So, Emma, do you want to be Mary this year?"
"No, I'm going to be an angel. You know there are three?"
 Nolan is not sure what he wants to be this year. Last year he was a lamb. I think he is contemplating the role of shepherd this year."

A few years ago I wrote a play called The Empty Manger. It was about a young woman who stopped into a church to warm herself. Due to illness, the role of Mary was up for grabs. The minister talked her into sitting by the manger. It was all she had to do. Just sit there.

As she sat there, three people came by to see the babe in the empty manger. A king. A woman. A child. They saw hope, love and peace. An heir, a friend, a master. 'Mary' was confused because she saw nothing in the manger. "I don't think this is the way the story goes," she said.

A light shone upon her face, and she began to cry for she realized that the manger was full of forgiveness, possibilities, love. A Jewish baby born in a barn. The crude manger and the humbleness with which we come to it. He was a dark child unlike her with fair features and blonde hair. It was time for Mary to face her reality. Could she accept this dark child? Could she believe that He  embraces her warts and all? Could she believe with all her heart?

Well, just as she had little choice in playing the part of Mary, she had little control over the depth of love she felt from this empty manger. The minister came back and told her to be ready as the congregation had settled. Confused Mary looked at the minister. What had just happened? She then understood that she had been given a blessing. A step back to a time that was foreign and strange. A step forward in peace and love.

Last year Emma held baby Jesus in the pageant. She pulled the blanket from his face and tucked it around him. She rocked him and saw nothing else but Him. For Emma, the manger was full. For all of us who watched, our hearts were overflowing.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. May you be blessed with peace, love and hope. Please, pass it on.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bearer of heart gifts

My grandniece and her two year old daughter Della were here for a visit. "MeMe, Della can play with Spotty," Nolan said. Spotty. The best stuffed toy ever because he and Daddy picked him out together. The stuffed toy never leaves him. This was quite a big deal.

"I don't want her to play with DogDog," Emma said. I assured her that it was just fine if she wanted to put DogDog up until Della left. The kids played and the evening passed. Emma crawled up on my lap, "MeMe, I asked Della if she wanted to play with DogDog, and she didn't." Generosity. Generosity of the heart, generosity of gifts, generosity in the spirit of giving. No one told the twins to share. No, wait. Their hearts asked them to share.

In their innocence, I saw my selfishness. My selfishness of my time, my ease, my comfort. What do I give?

I was sitting at a pancake house waiting for a table. A couple of young ladies came in and sat next to me. I realized that they were a couple and delighted in getting to know them. These dear young ladies were new to the area and struggling to settle in. It was a time when jobs were impossible to find. We were all in the same boat. I continued on to my table and they to theirs. When the bill came, I found that they had taken care of it. My heart grew 10 times its size.

We are blessings to one another. A gift in our actions. The interaction with everyone we meet is opportunity. Giving time to serve meals or time to visit with shut ins. Buying a toy for a child or books for a hospital. We are creative creatures that can serve in many ways....if we just give up a bit of ourselves.

This is a difficult time of the year for many. People alone. Those feeling the loss of a dear one. People unemployed and those homeless. People who have no family close by. So much pain and sadness seems to happen this season. We each have the ability to make the holidays easier and more comforting for someone out there. An extra plate at the table. A visit with an old friend. A plate of cookies to the fire house or police station. A phone call long overdue. So easy. So very easy.

Generosity is a wonderful word. The quality of being kind and generous. The heart speaking and the hands acting. May you be the bearers of heart gifts this Christmas and the receivers of great joy.

"Honey, there are children who do not receive toys at Christmas," I tried to explain. The 4 year old duo had just scoped out the toys and were making a list and checking it twice. Of course, the little cuties have no idea what poor means. They cannot fathom a child without a toy. As we were walking out of the store,  Nolan looked up at me. "They can have mine."