The Camel Had Wandered


Our family has always enjoyed a Christmas tradition of setting out a ceramic Nativity scene—complete with Wise Men, camels, shepherds, sheep, and, of course, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Each season the Nativity scene was the same.

One year when my children were young, I carefully unwrapped each piece and set them up to represent the first Christmas. The children gathered around to watch. We talked about the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds and the Wise Men. Then I cautioned the children, as always, not to touch the pieces, explaining that they were fragile and easy to break.

This year, however, the temptation was too great for my two-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The day we set up the Nativity scene, I noticed several times, with some irritation, that a camel had wandered from its appointed place or a sheep had strayed from the watchful care of the shepherd. Each time, I returned the piece to its rightful place, then tracked down the culprit and admonished her to leave things alone.

The next morning, Elizabeth awoke and went downstairs before I did. When I walked into the living room, I noticed right away that the manger scene had been disturbed again. All the pieces were clumped together in a mass, as tightly as they could be fitted together.

Impatiently, I stepped forward to put things right; but I stopped short as I realized that some thought had gone into this new arrangement. All twenty-three figures were grouped in a circle, facing inward, pushed together as if to get the best view possible of the figure resting in the center of them all—the baby Jesus.

The Spirit touched my soul as I pondered the insight of a two-year-old. Certainly, Christ should be the center of our holiday celebrations. If we all could draw in around our Savior—not only during the Christmas season, but during each day—what a better perspective we would have. The love he offers to each of us would be easily shared with others who have not ventured so close.

I left the Nativity scene arranged according to Elizabeth’s design that year. It served as a simple reminder during the rest of the season of what Christmas is all about.

[photo] Photograph by Steve Bunderson