Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A Manger Moose – And Other Christmas Confessions

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 22, 2011

I have a confession to make: Our crèche lacks the essential figures of the Madonna, St. Joseph and the Baby Jesus.

In fact, the little stable—which my husband made from scraps of wood years ago—has only one figure, and it is a bedraggled, cast-off tree ornament, namely a moose.

And, yes, I realize the whole scene is completely out of sync with what we read in the Bible because as far as I know, there is no moose mentioned anywhere in Scripture.

Every year I tell myself we are going to get our Christmas preparations underway earlier, so we’ll have time to put together a proper crèche. And every year, it seems the weeks just fly by, and there are presents to mail and cookies to bake—and then suddenly we’re on our way to Florida for the big day, and still no progress has been made on the nativity scene.

When we get to my cousin’s house in Seffner, the first thing I notice is the front bay window in which is displayed in glorious splendor a huge, gorgeous, perfectly stunning, quite lovely crèche.

And, yes, all the figures are accounted for: the Madonna, shiny and sweet, St. Joseph, stately and strong, and the angels, adoring and awestruck. There are also some sheep and a donkey, as you might expect, but no sign of a moose, of course.

Now it would be easy for me to get all envious about the crèche that my cousin and her husband display, but I’m learning to accept that people have different gifts and talents. My cousin Julie is a true nurturer whose life revolves around her children and grandchildren.

She doesn’t flinch at hosting a huge feast on Christmas Eve, and then getting up the next morning to serve a bountiful breakfast to about 40 or so people. The thought alone would put me in a rest home for a week.

Truthfully, I’m hopeless at things like artfully decorating the house for Christmas. In fact, our crooked little tree was adopted years ago from the roadside, and has served us well.

And when a friend asked me what my color scheme for the tree would be this year, I had to suppress an urge to laugh hysterically.  Because, you see, I just place whatever ancient ornaments I can fit on the crooked branches, and call it done.

My readers know I have never pretended to be a Martha Stewart type of woman, although I have a great respect for those who are. I suspect that if you are one of these, you have a perfectly proportioned tree in your home with creative, color-coordinated ornaments.

I’ll also wager a bet that you made your own centerpiece for the table from something like tree bark, pinecones and magnolia leaves. As for your crèche, I’m guessing it is sparkling and spectacular, while mine—let’s face it—would bring tears to Martha Stewart’s eyes.

In the old days I used to wring my hands about my Christmas décor, but little by little I am getting over that and am starting to realize that God made us all differently. And it’s clear from a glance at my living room that he certainly didn’t bestow the home-decorating gene on me, but I’m grateful he gave me a rather vivid imagination, which is a huge help to a writer.

And when it comes to the crèche, I don’t actually need a heavenly, hand-painted display with all the figures lined up so nicely. My rather flawed model will serve me just fine, because in my imagination I envision the real scene from all those years ago.

I picture it as somewhat messy with those animals in the stable and noisy as well. And I can easily imagine Mother Mary wishing there had been a room at the inn that night. But there wasn’t, so she made the best of things, shaping a snug bed for her baby in her own humble way.

And that, of course, is what Christmas is all about: making room for Jesus in our hearts and in our homes, however imperfect they may be. So even if our trees are crooked—and even if a renegade moose is hiding out in our crèche—why worry? The important thing is opening our hearts and welcoming Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.