”Cause I alluz been with you, children. An’ whenever you sing, I’m goin’ to be with you still. An’ you know how I can say such a mackulous thing?…Why, ’cause we in Jesus…”~Odessa Williams
This is the week that I pull out my favorite Christmas stories. The ones my mom and dad read to me. The ones that were read to me in school or Sunday School. The ones I read to my children. The ones I read to my students. The ones that my NC Grands missed out on last night, because they were way too busy to read books.
Regardless, Grandma, pulled those stories out today and took some time to just read to myself. Like always, nothing puts me in the Christmas mood like these special stories. One of my favorites is The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr. This is the same author who wrote the “Ragman” , a story that has been portrayed in many churches over the years.
This particular Christmas story revolves around the 7 year old Mary, daughter of an African-American preacher, and one of his elderly parishioners who is in the hospital, Odessa Williams. No spoiler alert – you will have to read it yourself.
Full of laughter, smiles, memories, and lots of tears. I finally tore myself away from those enchanted lands on the premise of getting something done (which didn’t happen). Instead, I napped in front of the fire between my two dogs on ‘their’ couch with Shadow Spooky Sparkle cat stretched out on the rug right in front of hearth. Sweet dreams of Christmas stories dancing in my head – prayers of gratitude in my heart.
“Babies, babies, we be in the hand of Jesus, us in his hand, and ain’ no one goin’ to snatch us out. Jesus, he don’ never let one of us go. Never. Not ever – -“~Odessa Williams
Before the Grands left today, they shook their packages one last time, argued over the beanie babies, re-arranged the village people and peeked in the creche. “Grandma, where is baby Jesus?” the Granddaughter pulled at my hand to make sure I saw the empty creche. I laughed and explained that Grandma Mickey always kept the Baby Jesus out of the creche until Christmas Eve. We did the same thing when our kidlets were little.
Old traditions die hard.
However, after re-reading Wangerin’s short little book, I think the seven year old Mary in The Manger Is Empty had a much, much better explanation.
“Jesus, he doesn’t have to be in the manger, does he? He goes back and forth, doesn’t he? I mean, he came from heaven, and he was borned right here, but then he went back to heaven again, and because he came and went, he’s coming and going all the time – – right?”~Mary
He’s coming and going all the time. He grabs us by the hand and “…don’t let one of us go. Never. Not ever.”
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”~Is 41:13
[Greg Olsen artwork/personal photo]