If you know me very well, you know I'm not a jolly Christmas elf. I grumble about the tree starting before Thanksgiving. I love giving gifts (it's my love language) but I hate stressing over them at a certain time when we are "supposed" to give gifts. I overthink them when they are semi-required. I pressure myself - no one else's fault at all. People shop on Thanksgiving and I want to maim them, because it means my mama has to work. Over all, you would not think me a fan of the holiday.
You would be wrong.
Eventually, Corey will bring the boxes up from the garage and we will put together the tree. That's been done now. Yay! And every year, I think, "That wasn't so hard." But, more importantly, among the blue Rubbermaid storage containers, there is a brown box labeled Willow Tree. It is not the Willow Tree nativity most of my friends have, though that is a beautiful nativity for sure. I'm not much for wee knick knacks. They read as clutter to my brain. Pieces disappear. I forget them. So, this is not that.
Instead, I have this set. According to the site, it is only $45, but it used to cost quite a bit more. It also features a stable-like piece that can be purchased separately. The part of me that is a minimalist skipped that. There's a story here.
I worked for Cokesbury for a while, and we sold Willow Tree pieces. I liked them, the simplicity of the art. When you stick to simple, you actually cover more ground. I could find symbols that spoke to me in many of the little statues. Then came Advent. The Holy Family was displayed. It cost a lot of money. I am frugal (ahem, cheap) so I chose to admire it in our window and leave it be. But I kept coming back to it, and one day it was on sale. Willow Tree was NEVER on sale, so there was some mistake somewhere, but it was indeed on sale.
That was that. The Holy Family journeyed home with me.
The stark quality of the set is what drew me. No anachronistic wise men cluttering up the scene, no shepherds interrupting a tired mother postpartum. No animals. No hay. No nothing.
Just a tiny family, a new family, a seed planted in hope.
Mary, holding God in her arms, kissing God's cheeks, smelling God's sweet baby scalp, cradling God to her breast. This is what I ache for at Christmas. Joseph beside her, protecting her, guarding his most precious treasures, following a dream and a mercy.
I have my own Joseph. I didn't earn him in the fashion of Mary, no virgin births for me, but he is my Joseph nonetheless. He is the man who stood beside me, protected me, guarded me as his treasure when the world and the enemy and my own mind sought to tear me apart. He guarded first one son and then another. He became a wall around us all, to hold us in, to keep fear out.
I love Advent. I love this side of Christmas, the quiet side, the little cove of divinity formed by Mary and Joseph, their bodies the only palace my King needed here on earth, Mary's lap His throne, Joseph's pride His crown.
I slide the Holy Family from the brown box, remove the Styrofoam that shrouds them 11 months each year, and I clear a space for them in my kitchen.
I clear a space for them inside my heart.