Finding Jesus in the nativity

By Emily Freeman

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Despite instructions to only look at the nativity set, Emily Freeman's young son would turn all of the figures to face the baby Jesus. (Provided by Emily Freeman)

Provided by Emily Freeman

Editor's note: Mormon Times asked for Christmas experiences from Mormon authors.

In the first few years of our marriage we did not own a nativity set. So one year, I worked a small job for several afternoons to save up some money to buy a simple set. I bought a very inexpensive set that came with a small wooden stable. The white porcelain figurines portrayed children dressed up in nativity clothes.

I chose that particular set because we had two small boys — Caleb, who was 3, and Josh, who was just over a year old.

I brought the nativity home and carefully set it up in our living room. Josh was too little to notice it, but Caleb was immediately drawn to the new display. I patiently explained to him how fragile each piece was and that he must not touch it, but only look at it with his eyes.

I carefully placed each figure in its appropriate spot — Joseph, Mary and the baby in the stable, the wise men on the left and the shepherd and the angel on the right. Then Caleb and I sat back and proudly admired our new decoration.

The next morning Caleb beat me downstairs. I heard him start a TV show as I finished getting ready for the day. About 15 minutes later I followed him down, pausing to look at my new treasure on my way into the kitchen. I was surprised to find it in complete disarray! All of the figurines had been squished together into the stable. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason in their placement, and I knew Caleb must have been involved.

I carefully placed each figure back into its appointed place and went to get Caleb. Again we sat in front of the manger as I patiently explained how important it was not to touch the glass figures because they might break. "We can't touch it," I told him again, "we just look at it." Caleb was such an obedient child and I knew it would not happen again.

Imagine my surprise when I walked down the stairs the next morning and found the scene in the same disarray as the morning before. This time I went right in and got Caleb. Setting him in front of the displaced nativity I asked, "Did you touch the manger?" He looked up at me with his round blue eyes and replied, "Yes."

"Do you remember you're not supposed to touch Mommy's manger?" I asked.

Again the reply was the same, "Yes."

"Then why did you touch it?" I questioned.

"Because they can't see Jesus," was his simple reply.

I looked carefully at the manger and realized that perhaps there was some order to the disarray. His clumsy little hands had tried to place every figure in a circle around the most important piece of the set — the baby in the manger. Crowded into the small stable, each had a perfect view of the baby. Everyone could see Jesus.

It was a profound lesson.

Needless to say, our display remained that way for the rest of the season, and has every year since then. Interestingly, once each of the figures had been carefully placed in a circle around the baby, Caleb never touched the set again. He was content with the arrangement. The most important figure had become the focus.

Where is your focus this Christmas season?

Can you see Jesus?

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, sometimes it is hard to make room for quiet moments. But if we pause each day to reflect on his gift we will begin to realize that within Christmas, Jesus Christ is found. This is the day of his birth, believe it. This is his gift, embrace it. This is his celebration, cherish it. This is his holiday, honor it.

Here are more Christmas experiences from Mormon authors:

"Lt. Shumway survived hate and despair on Guadalcanal to find love, light, hope and joy" by Shawn D. Moon

"Finding Christmas bliss" by Lisa Mangum

"The kitty cat Christmas" by Karen Tuft

"Woman received gift of music one Christmas season" by Michele Ashman Bell

"Discovering the gift of giving" by Josi Kilpack

Emily Freeman is the author of several books, including "Becoming His: A Daily Journey Toward Discipleship" and "A Christ-Centered Christmas." Emily and her husband, Greg, live in Lehi, with their four children.

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