Sunday, December 18, 2016

AM~Erica's Search for the Manger

So anyway...

It's Christmastime. Not sure if you've figured that out yet or not, but here we are. And, per the usual, it has felt extremely hectic. The time I have allotted to get stuff done has seemed to loosen from my grasp as other schedules have worked their way into mine.


I'm in one of those places where I keep trying to find Christmas in the chaos.

All of a sudden, I feel like a ton of typical Christmas specials at once!

As we are entering the last week to get to Christmas, I think about a particular search of that special something I was hunting a few years ago:

...a manger.

I was to do one of my dances for Christmas Eve. I felt called to do "Mary Did You Know?" to dance to. I informed my daughter she would dance with me - no, I didn't give her the option. This duet would be the Angel showing Mary about the amazingness her Son would possess. Since I wanted the dance to begin Mary sitting at the manger with her newborn son, I needed the manger at the church to be put out there.

I went searching...

I looked high.
I looked low.
I looked over.
I looked under.
I looked through.
I looked around.
I looked behind.
I looked between.

No matter where I looked, I couldn't find the manger!

So I asked around.

I asked the children's ministry director.
I asked the ushers.
I asked staff.
I asked those who had been on staff for a long time.
I asked those who had helped with the children's play for a long time.
I asked those who had volunteered for a long time.

No one seemed to know where to find that manger!

Time was ticking closer to Christmas Eve services and doing that dance...and I still couldn't find that manger.

Oh, there were speculations of where it might be, but there was nothing definitive; there was no proof. The manger just...wasn't...there...

My daughter & I still worked on the dance while pretending the manger was there, still holding out hope we'd find it; I was holding out hope I would find it.

Christmas Eve came, and my daughter & I were ready for the dance, outfits ready, and we knew what to do. There was one thing missing from that dance: the manger.

I had to do what I felt I needed to - I improvised. I found a stand-in for the manger. A decent-sized basket would just have make do. A pretend manger for the plastic newborn King.

It wasn't the same. I didn't find the manger. I had to fake a manger. I had to pretend a basket was the same thing. It wasn't. It wasn't.

I had to shrug the whole thing off as an "oh well" moment. 

One of people I had asked counsel on for the manger is also a good friend. He has a way of finding a different perspective on situations. He lightheartedly said, "Huh! This sounds like it could be a Christmas movie for Lifetime, 'In Search of the Manger.' You know, the focus is on searching for a physical manger, and it turns out the manger was there all along..."

For a very long time, one of the ushers would ask me if I found the manger every chance he could get. I was actually pretty irritated thinking about never finding the manger, and I kept getting reminded.

After I stopped wondering where that manger went, it turned out it was tucked away in the church's attic - a place many people didn't realize they should look.

That's right - the manger was tucked in a secluded corner, just within reach, among the dust, the dirt, the clutter.

Pretty fitting.

I still think of that story from time-to-time. The search for that manger...

Here we are, a week from Christmas, and I'm caught in a whirlwind of Christmas chaos while trying to find that moment of Christmas. Trying to find that moment I keep searching for while the time keeps slipping off elsewhere...

Yesterday was our first "big snow." OK, it wasn't big, per se, but it was messy, it was cold. We stayed inside the best we could. A quiet moment in the chaos, sure. But it wasn't getting me to the point I felt I needed to be in for Christmas.

Due to some of the wintery mess & crazy-cold temperatures, many churches in the area closed this morning. Ours was not one of them. We were hoping roads would be OK enough for my poor car to get there. I wanted to be at church. My husband would be giving a message that I probably needed a reminder of, as he preached the 4th Advent sermon in his "Channel Surfing Christmas" series. You know, using several Christmas shows to make a point how the Christmas story is still relevant.

As I went into the kitchen, something caught my eye:

See that? Yeah, I did a double-take, too. I noticed a free-standing manger right outside my kitchen window. It was right there!

OK, after a little bit, and when the shock wore off, I did realize it was a play table in our neighbor's yard. It was just perfectly placed & covered in snow.

And it hit me: there's the manger! I've looked so hard for it, I didn't realize it's right there in front of me. Seemingly unattainable, out of reach, and looking everywhere for it except where it truly is. Right there. And not in the form I had ever expected.

When I do my Advent dance to "Prepare a Place," there is a line that I need to remember:
Set time aside, and be quiet, as you wait for the coming One.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

Yesterday was mostly a quiet day. Focus on here & now; waiting & anticipating the celebrating of Jesus' birth. Time was set aside in the cold, bleak weather of December. And I woke up to the manger.

Christ is coming, my friends.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica