One of the things that I love about Christmas time is the varied opportunities to set up nativity scenes with my Bug. He has loved them since he was less than a year old and with fascination would reach towards the animals until one was handed to him. At this point in my life I have three incomplete sets of nativity pieces that with much laughter and smiles are carefully set up next to each other. Every year, the different pieces end up moving around the room as Joseph may be dragged off by a cat or Bug's service dog may casually pick one up when we are not looking and chew it to bits... or they even move when we use the pieces to recreate stories. These stories can be the birth of Christ as told in the Gospel of Luke or can become as varied as the barn scene in "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis. Sometimes, we just play farm and feed and tend to the animals that come with these nativity sets- always cows and sheep, but sometimes donkeys, horses, and even camels. Over the years I have worked pretty hard to make sure that my son understands that the nativity story with the animals is a tradition and is fun, but is very much not what the scriptures describe the events of the birth of Christ to be. The nativity tradition, while beautiful and fun, is not scriptural and in some ways seems to take away from the importance and the struggle of the event itself that we Christians celebrate - the birth of our Savior.
This year after Thanksgiving, I happily brought out the nativity sets for setting up. As usual, Bug and I sat down and placed them in the places we wanted. We added real hay and shavings to one of the stables and it always feels wonderful to sit back and look at the different groups. The sets are quite easy to tell apart as one is a Fisher Price plastic set, a hand carved wood set and a paper mache set that was hand painted for me by the young women of my branch a few years ago. I noticed this year that as the pieces began to be moved and scattered around the house, my son clearly had a very different image in his mind as he put them back and by the time that Christmas Day arrived, I had a very different nativity scene to view. So at a terribly early hour of the morning, while everyone else opened presents, I found my eyes and my thoughts drawn back towards the nativity scene in front of me. What I saw was three small smiling babies in the center of a large group which was then surrounded by animals and then the people. In some ways it looked a bit like how I feel about the sun.... the edges are easily seen but looking at the center is too bright, too hard.... too much. After the required present opening and fun, I chatted with Bug about the nativity and some of the same things that I saw as I looked down were emotions and ideas that he had been trying in a small way to suggest. Here are our thoughts:
1. How people picture the Savior can vary greatly on their perspective. His race, skin color, culture, facial expressions, etc... are things that are developed created by each of us and our religious culture. While every single person may see the Savior, his life, and his commandments differently, for those who celebrate his birth and life, we tend to see him as the center of our heart- the nucleus of our living soul. This is where Jesus Christ should be - in our minds and hearts, our thoughts and hopes. In essence, he should be our center and our life should revolve around him and our relationship with him.
2. The animals were set around him as a protection. Animals are pure and live the lives that they have been set to lead on this earth. They are here to live, to teach us, to sometimes feed us and to help us to recognize the divine all around us. As such, most animals will likely recognize the Christ in the flesh before we human beings shall and as each creature recognizes its spiritual heart, they will surround him in joy and protect him from harm.
3. People are on the outside of the circle as we are frail, easily distracted and of skewed perspectives. When we look at pictures of Christ with his mother and images that celebrate his birth, for many the joy is in the rest of the image behind the holy child... the cow in the next stall, the sheep standing next to a shepherd, the donkey tied up nearby. When we perform the nativity story in plays, each of the actors in the nativity are likely to play their character to the hilt and in most traditional nativities, they are more animals than people. So the majority of the action comes from the animals as well as the majority of the space taken up. As I discovered to my cost last year, telling a friend that having animals in a Nativity scene isn't scriptural can seriously get you gossiped and talked about even when the comment was mentioned in a closed door, private meeting. I was really surprised at how offended someone could get over the idea that Christ wasn't surrounded from his first earthly breath with joyous, happy livestock crowding in toward the manger for a better look. As Bug told me, "We see what we want to see, animals see what is there."
I look back a week later on this experience and find myself pretty pleased and tearful. I am grateful for an amazing and thoughtful child who is kind and empathetic and good-hearted. I am grateful that even with some of his learning challenges, Bug is aware of how to live a good life and is able to understand many human frailties and stumbling blocks. He also seems to understand where the Savior should be in our lives... in our hearts, the focus.... the center of our being. This is a Christmas gift I will never forget and always be grateful for. Tomorrow, my son will be 14 years old. I look forward to celebrating his birthday with him and eating cake. I am thankful for the gifts he has given me... especially these thoughts. Love you Bug. :)
I have had a nice sabbatical over the last several months and I am ready to begin again. Writing is such a part of my head and my heart that I am thrilled at the idea f starting again. I have some outlines on topics for this year - history fans, etc... will have quite a few things that they will enjoy. As I head to sleep on this beautiful evening on the first evening of this year, may we all sleep well and tell someone that we love them and how much they mean to us today. Let start a great new year together! And if you have any specific requests for the year, please share in the comments. :)
A bit ago, I was privileged to spent some time with these totally cute little girls that I tend to only see at church once a week. It was a wonderful time had by all I think and I have found I am growing to love these wee ones so much. While I sometimes wish that I had more children, I have managed to find some comfort in caring for other people’s children and trying to help them with their tasks. (I do enjoy going to bed when I want though ;) During our game playing and chatting, the six year old saw a statue (maybe curio is a better word) of a shark on my bookcase- one of my treasured possessions that my sister gave me after she was married. Grimacing, she then told me that she ‘hates’ all sharks because they are always hungry and always biting people. Nothing that I could say could shake that simple foundation of that knowledge. It felt a bit sad because that seems like such a extreme and also mainly unnecessary fear. So, I picked up a few of my books- those who know me tend to know that sharks are something that I enjoy and have been trying to instill that sense of joy and wonder in my son- and we started to read about several different kinds of sharks. She decided at the end of our conversation that we should study all of them- each and every species – so we can decide who is right. A fairly mature response for anyone that age… and a little more motivation than I think I have ;) But we decided to start on the basics. So after about twenty minutes, these is what we came up with. (I have added a few of her comments in bold and parenthesis.)
pictures from: http://oceana.org/en/explore/marine-wildlife/whale-shark, http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/zebra_shark, http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/animal-rights-groups-help-inspire-hong-kong-shark-fin-ban_b72810
In essence, any woman who (or was thought to be) engaged in behavior that felt threatening or was unconventional in behavior or appearance was at serious risk for problems. Many women could be accused and found guilty and executed on little to no evidence of significant wrong doing. The most common way was to accuse a 'witch' and charge her with heresy. As the definition of heresy was defined by the specific religion but usually enforced not only religious orders and leaders but also enforced by the secular legal power structure. In that light, a heresy charge was a pretty significant and threatening event in someone’s life as well as a charge that didn’t depend on physical proof for convictions- circumstantial evidence, hearsay and confessions under torture were sufficient. Due to women’s influence in their homes and as the transmitter of the culture to their young children, they were in the position to spread unconventional information to their children. As this could potential force changes in the hierarchy and its power, men were encouraged to be actively engaged in keeping the women in their family / household under their control. Single women, whether due to a lack of marriage or from being widowed, were also likely to be accused and condemned for a few reasons. Due to their single status, they had no male protectors and were easier to accuse than married females. In that same sense, they had no men to ‘control’ and keep tabs on them and their behavior and if they were self-sufficient or financially independent, any woman who could be seen as too prominent in society for any reason was in a dangerous situation. Also, by being single and taking assents, these women could and did stand in the way of the orderly transmission of property from one generation of males to another.
pictures from: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/dominicselwood/100252072/the-dark-deep-roots-of-britains-fascination-with-witchcraft/, http://www.damnedct.com/connecticut-witchcraft-trials, http://www.biography.com/people/john-calvin-9235788, http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/shop/the-malleus-maleficarum-in-latin-pdf/, http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/shop/the-malleus-maleficarum-in-latin-pdf/, http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2010/07/killing-witches-as-best-way-to-kill.html, http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAMQjxw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.academic.ru%2Fdic.nsf%2Fenwiki%2F11823268&ei=cKPjVPK9L-OxsASR94DIDw&psig=AFQjCNGjAAFlzXs6eji2QEbpsIhDxcZ0Pg&ust=1424291020320634, http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/11823268,
I found myself really interested in learning about how women's history is being compiled by historians and feminists today and how, as history is complied, what forces or parts of culture tend to decide which history is most important for the average student to learn about. I recognize that politics enters that equation as well so I understand that question must needs be open ended without a full solution to be had.
pictures from: http://www.citelighter.com/film-media/fashion/knowledgecards/womens-fashions-of-the-medieval-era, https://oregonheritage.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/oregon-womens-history-project/, https://oregonheritage.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/oregon-womens-history-project/, http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/article/grid-history-women-history