Beyond the Manger

A bookshelf stands in the corner of my dining room.

Trinkets and treasures stand on its often-dusty shelves: A musical snow globe from my daddy, salt and pepper shakers that once adorned my great-grandmother’s shelf, my grandfather’s glasses (I see him when I see them), and a teapot that belonged to my mom.

But most of its shelves hold the nativities I have collected over the years. It is a collection that stays out year-round as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in a broken world. Hope eternal.

Years ago, my daughter Abbie and I stepped into a second-hand shop and stumbled upon a nativity set that quickly became mine. I placed the pieces on the shelf that is eye-level to a toddler.

Ever since our granddaughter, Lilley K, learned to walk, one of her favorite spots to linger is at this shelf. Her interest reminds me of my earliest memories of Christmas, which include my own fascination with the sight of baby Jesus surrounded by his parents, shepherds, and angels.

I enjoy watching Lilley K. examine the pieces on all of the shelves, often rearranging them. She especially likes a figurine of a little girl wearing a straw hat and will hold her and carefully place her back on the shelf.

Lilley K moved about that day, from tasting to playing to napping, taking her part in the tradition of the women in our family of getting together in my kitchen to bake Christmas goodies. You can imagine it—Christmas movies playing in the background, yummy aromas wafting throughout the house, and grandchildren toddling, running, playing, and “helping.”

And several moments throughout the day, she stood at the shelf, playing with the nativity.

Early the next morning, I shuffled toward the kitchen and stopped at my shelf. I glanced down and saw a precious sight. At some point during the festivities, Lilley K rearranged the nativity and placed that little girl wearing the straw hat by the baby Jesus. 

I would love to have known what was going through her creative little mind as she put each figurine in its place.

I smiled as I thought of her singing “we are weak but he be strong” and saying her prayers “thank you God for potatoes and Daddy and Mommy and Pop and Dramaw” and whomever else she was thinking of at the moment. 

I like to believe she recognized the baby as God’s special gift and placed the girl in the straw hat near him as a simple act of worship.

She is six now and beginning to learn to step away from the manger and see the purpose of His birth—past the swaddled infant, to the One who makes all things new.

To know that the tiny fist that grasped His mother’s finger belonged to the Defender of the universe.

The tiny feet that stretched and kicked, carried the Savior of the world.

The eyes that closed in blissful sleep saw this night before the foundations of the earth were formed.

Angels praised God and shouted Glory to God in the highest heaven! (Luke 2:14). The world continued to turn, unaware the Bright and Morning Star had descended, bringing salvation for all mankind.

The shepherds hurried to find this child—did they know they looked upon the Good Shepherd?

Did they hear the baby cry and know, this is the voice that cried It Is Finished!

Step away from the manger. Our Deliverer is here; our longing is over. Reconciler, Redeemer. Son of God.

The baby was here for a short time. The Son of God is eternal. He is past tense and present tense and future tense.

Step away from the manger. Our salvation is nigh.

You see, that little sleeping baby Jesus came to this world so you and I can live our short years on earth knowing His presence, and when we close our eyes to this world we can open them in Glory.

Stop and see the hope He brings. Teach your children the purpose of His birth. This season of celebration is meant for eternity.

One day, my shelves of treasures and trinkets will fall into a mess of broken glass and splintered wood. Baking traditions will end and Christmas movies won’t matter.

I pray my family and yours will build upon the foundation of the birth of this baby and know our Redeemer lives.

Step away from the manger and see the purpose of His birth.

cover photo courtesy of David Beale on Unsplash

in the Quiver

17 thoughts on “Beyond the Manger

  1. Unlike the mythical “Grinch”, my heart didn’t grow from this post; but it sure melted about four inches of ice surrounding it. The CHRISTmas spirit just arrived at my house! Thank you so much for this heartwarming post. God’s blessings.


    1. Thank you, JD and may God bless your sweet, tender heart! May you feel his presence in fresh ways this Christmas season!
      You are such a blessing.


    1. Sylvia, thank you! In these odd and uncertain times isn’t wonderful to know Jesus is our solid rock, author and finisher of our faith! Merry Christmas!


  2. “This season of celebration is meant for eternity.” Yes! And I can’t wait to gather around His throne and to continue praising Him without hindrance. Thank you, Shelley, for taking us to the manger, and beyond. Blessings 🙂


  3. What a sweet and touching story, Shelley. You took us from a child’s wonder to our worship of the Kings of kings, our Savior. Thank you, writer friend.


  4. This was my favorite statement (in the earthly sense). “At some point during the festivities, Lilley K rearranged the nativity and placed that little girl wearing the straw hat by the baby Jesus.” The intimacy of humanity with Christ is just that available. The childlike insight is just that simple. Thank you for sharing this true story wrapped in the truth of God.


    1. Thank you, Charla.
      We had our girls baking day last Saturday and I snapped a picture of Lilley K (now 6) at the shelf arranging the nativity pieces.
      He really is that available to all of us! Such a needlessly broken world…
      God bless you and Merry Christmas!


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