We celebrate the Nativity of the Lord in our household today, and wish you the best of the season, whatever you call it and however you choose to celebrate it. Blogging will be light or nonexistent today, and we are rerunning last year's piece:
About 15 years ago, we were looking for a creche -- we never had one growing up, and felt that we needed one. Because we are also cheap, we finally found one in the after-Christmas sale at the Folk Tree Gallery in Pasadena for half off -- a simple set of painted terra cotta from Peru. We liked it very much, so we bought it, they boxed it, and we took it home.
But as we unpacked the box, we found out that we had a passenger -- a broken, terra cotta cow, in a totally different style. It had a broken-off horn and a leg was just barely hanging on -- obviously from another set, broken and put in the box in the back room to be thrown away later, but instead they used the box to pack my set and didn't notice the cow already in it.
This was my first nativity set, and I had a problem. What do you do with a broken, non-matching piece? Throw it away? Maybe -- but there's a protocol for getting rid of worn out American flags -- maybe there's some kind of protocol for broken creche pieces? I had no idea. I set up the nativity set, and put the broken cow in the back until I could figure out what to do with her.
Well, for several years I just packed her and forgot about her until the next year. Sometimes she was put in the back of the display, where her non-matching brokenness wouldn't distract too much. Sometimes i just left her in the box as I brought out the other pieces ... but I never threw her away.
Over time, tho', she has moved more to the front of the display, and now I like to put her nearest the Christ Child, despite the fact that she's broken and doesn't match the other pieces. She reminds me of ... well, me. That just means she needs to be there -- in fact, she's the one the whole event is for.
The picture is of a Flemish painting by an unknown artist, c. 1515, "Adoration of the Christ Child," which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Several years ago, psychiatrist Andrew Levitas and geneticist Cheryl Reid made a discovery: the angel closest to Mary, and possibly one of the shepherds in the back, bore facial evidence of Down Syndrome. They conjectured that the artist used models with Down Syndrome fully three centuries before the condition was identified by Dr. Langdon Down.
And the artist didn't call attention to it -- in fact, they're representing beings (shepherds and angels) who are meant to be there. Imperfect and somewhat damaged, as we all are, but also welcomed to the Nativity.
Thanks to that broken cow -- and that painting -- we take Christmas a lot more seriously now.
So Merry Christmas!!
One of our favorite groups, the Roches, have the final word: