Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Story 2007

The Manger Cradled the King


Sue Cameron

Mary leaned on the doorframe, silently watching her husband work. She watched his hands, so skillful and steady, almost gentle as they worked with the wood. She also noticed the strength of his back and arms underneath his simple woven tunic. How can I help but love him? He’s taken me as his own. Her hand went protectively to the unborn child she carried. He’s taken both of us as his own.

He must have sensed her admiring him. “Mary? Is it already time for lunch?”

She smiled. “Your stomach usually alerts you.”

He wiped sawdust from his hands. “I could use a break.”

Her eyes traveled to the back of the small room. “I see you finished the yoke for Levi. What are you working on now?”

He blushed and she felt startled. “What? Are you embarrassed to tell me?”

He crossed to her and lifted her chin. “No, I just wanted it to be a surprise.”

Her eyes grew wide. “For the baby?”

“Yes.” He led her to the lovingly sanded wood and held it up for her to inspect.

She touched it carefully. “It’s smooth and—beautiful.”

“It will be the most wonderful cradle in all of Nazareth—in all of Israel.”

She clapped her hands and bounced up and down on her tippy-toes. “In all the

world! Everyone will come and see the cradle you have made.”

He placed his hands on her shoulders. “No. Everyone will come to see the

baby in the cradle.”

“Yes, the baby—” She looked up at him in fear, in wonder, in anticipation.

“Joseph, why me, why us?”

He wrapped his arms around her and held her. “Only Yahweh knows and that is


* * * * *

Mary fought back the tears when she saw the discouragement in Joseph’s eyes as he returned to her. “No room?”

He shook his head and grabbed hold of the rope, tugging their weary donkey forward. “Caesar has no concern for us and the fact that we have no place to sleep tonight. His greed, wanting to make sure no one fails to pay him tribute, is the reason we had to make this difficult journey.”

She watched his hunched shoulders and wanted to comfort him, to encourage him. “At least we’re together.”

He stopped and came to her, stroking her cheek. “How are you feeling?”

“Good. I’m young and strong as an ox and—”



The color drained from his face. “Now? So soon?”

She swallowed and nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry.” He took hold of the rope, yanked hard, and urged the donkey. “Come on.” He glanced back at her. “I’ll find us a place, I promise.”

* * * * *

There was more work and pain and blood then she had expected. Seeing others give birth did little to prepare her for her own experience. But in an instant all of that had been replaced by overwhelming love and wonder as Joseph laid the baby in her arms. She looked down at him and then up into her husband’s eyes. “He’s perfect.”

Joseph wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Yes, he is—more perfect than any baby ever born.”

She smiled.

He kissed her forehead. “I’m so proud of you.” When the baby cried he pulled back. “What’s wrong?”

She giggled. “I don’t know, maybe he’s hungry.”

“Then you should feed him, right?”

“I’ll try.”

As the newborn nursed, Joseph knelt at the manger to prepared his bed. “Ouch.” He sucked his finger.

“A splinter?”

Joseph nodded. They looked into each other’s eyes, mourning the tiny hand-woven blanket and hand carved cradle so tenderly prepared for this moment. He went to her, grasping her hand. He whispered, “He is here with us, that’s all that matters.”

* * * * *

When life doesn’t turn out as you planned, when dreams don’t materialize, when the journey is harder than you’ve ever imagined, just remember, Jesus is here with us, and that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Grandkids sitting on Granddad (Thanksgiving 2007)

Grandkids table at Thanksgiving.

It's been too long since I've visited with you. I want to share the story I wrote last Christmas, hope you enjoy it and MERRY CHRISTMAS.


Just after Christmas last year I purchased a three-piece nativity set. It’s made of an off-white resin/stone mixture. I chose it because the figures look realistic and I like the way the fabric of their clothes seems to flow.

We positioned the set high on a large rock in our front yard. My husband, Craig adjusted one of our spotlights to shine so that the trio would be clearly visible to those who pass by. Ethne, our granddaughter, loves the figures. As soon as she arrives for a visit she says, “Baby Jesus, see it.” I take her hand to steady her as we walk over the large uneven river rocks of our desert landscaping. When we reach the little family of three she says, “Baby Jesus. Hold it.” Then she lifts the figure of the Christ child to plant a tender kiss on his face. This new ritual delights me and I pictured it as a permanent part of our family’s yearly Christmas tradition. But that was before the winds came.

El Paso wind can be vicious. It blew in, swept Joseph from his place of honor and sent him crashing headlong into the stones below. Joseph lost face; in fact he lost all of his face. There was nothing but a huge empty gap where his features used to be. I collected four jagged pieces of his shattered image then picked up my broken Joseph to carry him inside. I hid him. I couldn’t let a faceless man watch over Mary and Baby Jesus.

In a strange way, I hurt for the lifeless figure, wondering why he couldn’t have fallen backwards where the damage wouldn’t be so obvious. Gluing the back of his robe would have been so easy. No one would even notice that he’d been damaged and repaired. But this injury was apparent, from ear to ear and forehead to chin, the Joseph I had enjoyed was missing.

I didn’t throw Joseph away or seek to replace him. I knew what he needed—a surgeon with skillful hands. Luckily, I’m married to one. Craig went to work on our statue and glued the plaster back together. Now Joseph is restored. He’s not broken anymore. His scars are visible, cracks crisscross his face and there is a small gap near his hairline where a small piece of plaster is completely missing. It’s obvious he’s been mended. But Joseph has rejoined his family.

Sadly, it is not unusual for a man or woman to fall publicly and their image to break upon the rocks of sinful choices. Sometimes they are those in high places, other times they are our neighbors, friends or members within our own family. With no place to hide, their brokenness is apparent to all and often causes pain for others.

When I consider this, I think of my Joseph. The cracks in his face will remind me, year after year, that Jesus came to restore people. He can mend every person who has lost face. Bind up every broken heart. Heal every shattered family. Christmas whispers that there is hope and healing in the loving hands of the One who is a surgeon of souls.

So, come to Him this Christmas, as you are—needy, frail, and breakable—fashioned of dust. Give thanks that the roaring wind hasn’t yet blown through your life, or that though you bear scars, you have survived. For at the manger, you will find Jesus reaching out to lift you up in order to plant a tender kiss of mercy on your face and restore your soul.