Written by Lauren Sterling
For most of the year it was just an ordinary closet, but when the grandchildren came to visit, my grandmother’s closet was transformed. It became a clubhouse, a shoe store, and at Christmastime, the stable for our annual Nativity play.
After the initial shyness wore off from our reunion with our cousins, who we only saw once a year, all of us grandchildren would get to work planning the production. Each year’s staging was unique. One of the most memorable was the “rap year” heavily influenced by my cousin’s 5th grade rap phase. Or the year we suspended a doll “angel” from the ceiling fan cord, inadvertently giving the appearance of a person hanging from the gallows.
Costuming was always easy. We would don my grandmother’s colorful robes and scarves and then we would get to work preparing the set. Armful by armful, we gathered up my grandmother’s shoes and purses, took them out of the closet, and proceeded into the bathroom where we heaped them into a big pile, clearing the closet floor for the manger and cast of characters.
Our parents, my grandma, and my grandma’s neighbor would pile into the bedroom with their enormous 1980’s camcorders to experience that year’s rendition.
We continued this childhood tradition for years, even after our former “Baby Jesus” was taller than the rest of us and we could no longer all fit into the small closet.
I think back on these plays with a mixture of nostalgia, amusement, and grief for family separated by death and distance. But mostly, I feel immense gratitude. Gratitude for a grandmother who loved God fiercely and faithfully and instilled that in her family. A grandmother who did not bat an eye as we destroyed her tidy room because she knew that we were learning the real meaning of Christmas.
I also feel challenged to be an example of faith to my own children. To support my kids as they explore their faith, knowing that sometimes it might be messy, literally and figuratively. What a tremendous responsibility and privilege.
This Christmas I am thankful for those who have gone before us, and pray for wisdom as we share the true hope and joy of this season with the next generation.
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