Tuesday 20 December 2016

the stories things tell

There are only a couple of things in life I collect. I have enough books to have started my third bookshelf. I have one Starbucks' mug for each place I've lived. I'm trying to get magnets of the JV countries I visit - but that one proves quite hard when I'm not necessarily in touristy, sells magnets, kind of places when I travel for work.

But as I pulled out my Christmas decorations I realised I may be collecting nativities. And the five I own tell some interesting stories. 

This is the first one I bought. It was a hot, sunny day and a strange one to be buying a magnetic nativity scene. But it was summer 2007, I was in Prague having done my very first English camp, and I was wandering around the market looking for gifts and something for myself. It was my first time in the Czech Republic and, had you asked me, I wouldn't have been able to say with certainty that I'd come back again, let alone live here.

And know that it vaguely bothers me that the wise men face east so they cannot be making some grand entrance from the geographically correct direction.

The next set I bought came a couple of years later - maybe in 2008 or 2009 when I lived in Cardiff. I bought this little set (that also has wise men, a shepherd, a donkey and camel) in Paperchase in the Welsh capital when I was at university there. And now the cast of the Christmas story find themselves dotted around my Christmas tree.

This set is Northern Irish and started off with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. The shepherds were added the next year. The characters are made out of clay and made by my very talented best friend, given as Christmas presents a few years ago.

I found this Russian doll nativity set in the John Lewis in Heathrow airport last year when I was on home assignment. It's fun and bright and buying it at the airport meant I didn't pay tax on it. The wise men doll actually has three faces as you rotate it round. I should probably have the wise men standing on the other side of the dresser as that would actually have them coming in from the east (as Poland is just a few hundred metres to the left of this photo).

This one is the most recent addition to the collection. It's made from olive wood and was bought in Nazareth when I was in Israel earlier this year. 

Five different nativity sets, from five different countries, over the last nine years. It's fun to pull them out of the box and decide where and how to display them each year. And they tell beautiful tales of God's faithfulness - in the places I've lived, the relationships I have, and the stories I've gathered.

And they allow me to enter the greatest story. The story that I've heard since before I can remember. The story in which five-year-old me played Mary. The story that each year finds me older and different, and ever in need of it. The story that ever works its way deeper into my bones. 

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