Each December, when the stresses of Christmastime threaten to overwhelm, I find comfort in the essential elements of this Christian tradition. The events occurred at a time when people lived closer to the natural world, a place light years away from our jangling, electronic contemporary life.

The story begins with the simplest of images, that of a young couple making their way alone through a crisp desert night underneath a canopy of stars. The woman is pregnant, riding on the back of a donkey and the man is walking at their side.  I imagine that the only sounds are those of hooves and feet crunching in the sand with the donkey’s ambling gait setting the rhythm. Their destination is a village that they must reach in order to be counted in a government census.

In the next image, the setting shifts. The woman, the man and the donkey have completed their journey but they have found that the village is packed with other travelers. They have no choice but to huddle in a stable where the baby is born and then placed in a wooden manger on a mattress of straw. Aside from the man and the woman, the only witnesses to this event are the animals nearby. Outside, a bright star above the stable pierces the night. It is this picture of the baby in the crèche, along with the donkey, a cow, a sheep at its side, and the star above, that soothes my mind.

From this point, the mystery of the Christian tradition takes hold. The birth is heralded across the heavens, prompting a pilgrimage to the stable by three wise men, riding on camels, following the star, bringing precious substances to mark the arrival of the divine child. This third image always brings a smile of appreciation as it affirms the dignity, humility and faith of the people involved.

May your Christmas Season be filled with the peacefulness and beauty of the natural world.


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