Nativity sets come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Mine is made of hand-carved olive wood from Israel. When people look at it, they often comment on how unusual it is, or how the simple, rugged wooden pieces suit our family.
Then they do a double-take. They move closer and tilt their head, a puzzled look on their faces.
“Um, is there a piece missing?”
What do you think?
You can see the baby in the manger, sheep and cattle, bearded shepherds, and even turbaned Magi bearing gifts. But something, or rather someone, is definitely missing.
Why do I continue to use a nativity scene that is missing the all-important figure of Mary? Here’s my explanation:
In defense of a Mary-less nativity scene.
Think back to all the photos you have seen of parents with a newborn baby. What do you see? A beaming father, a blanket-wrapped bundle with a wrinkly newborn face peeping out, and a weary-but-smiling mother.
Where is the mother in these photos? She is lying down, usually still wearing a hospital gown and bundled under blankets.
Because birthing a baby is hard, painful work and the mother is exhausted.
Now imagine giving birth after traveling cross country for several days, wandering through a strange town trying to find a place to stay, and finally ending up in a stable, which was probably filled with other latecomers who couldn’t find a bed anywhere else. Add in the fact that the mother-to-be did not bring any female relatives to coach her through her first birth. Consider also that the stable would be somewhat lacking in privacy.
So, where is Mary?
She is off in the corner, trying to get some much-needed sleep. She is physically and emotionally drained. She has neither the energy nor the inclination to kneel on dirty straw. She needs time to regain her strength so she can care for that little swaddled bundle who will shortly be wailing because he is hungry or needs a diaper change.
She is still in awe of what has occurred. Of course she is. But she’ll have plenty of time to study that tiny Word-become-flesh in the days to come. Plenty of time to ponder in her heart all that has transpired.
Right now, though, she’s too tired to do anything but sleep.
I think she deserves the rest.