There’s a thrift store a block away from our house. Sometimes, when the weather is gloomy but my kids and I still want to go on an adventure, we’ll go there and treasure-hunt.
The last time we went there? I found a Little People Nativity set that was bundled with a Little People barn set! I showed it to my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, and they were excited. Heck, I was excited! I had been musing about whether I should get a Little People Nativity set for a while, to keep them from playing with my porcelain set, and now look! Here it was!
I paid for it… and by paid, I mean I haggled with the owner for a more reasonable price, because there are no price tags at that place. He gave my kids additional toys from a treasure chest — did I mention that we went treasure-hunting here? — and then we hurried home. It was parade! My two-year-old son carried big rigs in each hand, my four-year-old carried some old Burger King toys that came out when I was a kid, and I carried my baby and two very loved playsets.
The excitement was palpable when we got home. It was gloomy and damp that day, so being outside was not so fun in the first place, but my children begged to go inside and play — which, trust me, is a rarity. They would live outside if they could!
After reminding them to take their coats and shoes off, we hurried downstairs in the playroom. And by playroom, I actually mean my home office, because that’s where I make all the books that I’ve made, but trust me, it’s also a playroom. And yes, I make my books while my children zoom crazily around me.
There, in the playroom/home office, we unpacked the toys!
All the Little People came in a plastic bag, and so I dumped them out and put the Nativity figures beside the stable, explaining to my children who everyone was.
“That’s Mary! She’s our mother. There’s Joseph. These are the three wise men. There’s a shepherd! Here’s some sheep… a cow…”
But someone was missing.
And by someone, I really mean Someone, for the Child Jesus was missing.
In my rush to get this Nativity set, I had forgotten to check to make sure Jesus was actually there.
The Last Minute Artwork
And so, for today, I would like to feature an artwork that almost didn’t make it into the Joyful Mysteries book:
It’s one of my favorite artworks in the book, actually, because it reminds me of Christmas, in the best way possible.
In the typical Baroque style, there’s tons of drama in this scene. Jesus Christ shines with a radiance that is so bright that a shepherd boy gazing in at Jesus shields his eyes. Angels overhead hold a script which, translated, reads, “Glory to God in the highest.” Another angel spreads incense smoke over the scene. Mary, who is depicted as being stunningly beautiful, holds a blanket, revealing Jesus, while Joseph is behind her, peeking in on the scene.
Yet, there is an attempt to make the scene have some rough edges with some fun details. The shepherds are big and rough looking. Two chickens roost nearby, oblivious to the heavenly drama. There’s even a shepherd looking away that is holding bagpipes!
It’s dramatic and sentimental without being kitsch, and I love it for that.
So why did it almost not get featured?
Simple: I was trying to get the book ready for before Christmas.
I was rushed.
And I almost missed it.
The Christmas Rush
And I can’t be the only one who’s rushed for Christmas! Even though I do my best to prepare for Jesus for Christmas, I often miss Him in the madness of last-minute shopping, decorations, cooking, and cleaning that often accompany the Christmas season.
And don’t even get me started about the book business…
Which is one reason why I love this mystery, which is in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
The Birth of Christ.
The Rosary is prayed year-round, with the Joyful Mysteries prayed every Monday and Saturday, plus Sundays in the season of Advent. There is plenty of time to meditate on the birth of Christ, on Jesus. There is ample time to just reflect on the strange, yet familiar way that He entered into our world. The scriptures describe His birth in this way:
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. 2This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. 4And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.8 Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. 9The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:14 “Glory to God in the highestand on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”15When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. 18All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. 19And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. 20Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
And isn’t that artwork a beautiful representation of this mystery?
An Invitation to Beat the Christmas Rush
The stores are already stocking up for Christmas! When I was younger, I often thought it was ridiculous that the stores prepared this early for the Christmas rush, months before Christmas even was a thing. I laughed and would make fun of them for starting in advance.
Now, a little older and perhaps a tiny bit wiser, it occurs to me that maybe I was the ridiculous one for not preparing for Christmas long in advance.
Mind you, I’m not talking about preparing for sales.
I’m talking about prayer life.
What if we prepared our hearts for Christ and meditated on Christmas year-round, so that we could fully receive Him in the world?
What if we lived our lives constantly with the generosity and holiness that we aim for in the Christmas season?
What if we truly didn’t rush so much that we missed that little child, the Christ Child?
Our entire life would be changed.
And so, I would like to invite you to pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. No, it’s not the Christmas season. That is still months away! And yet, there is always time for us to marvel in the joy and wonder of that miracle which happened in Bethlehem a millennia ago.
This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Joyful Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here!