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  • Brendan, in coat, baseball cap, paced outside my bathroom door, waiting for me to hurry up and finish shaving.

    The moment had come to bring the stable from the barn, sweet smelling straw from Mr. Webster's feed store, and the creche figures from the attic. Altogether in our small chapel they made a thrilling scene, lit by a golden glow from the Moravian star. It was a sacred moment for me - this annual placing of the creche.

    Last year, when sadly returning all these props to their 11-month resting places, I was overwhelmed with foreboding about the uncertain year ahead. "If I make it round to Christmas again," I thought, "I'll place my hand on the small stable roof and swell with thanksgiving. It will be a moment when I can look back and say, 'See, you fraidy cat, all your worst fears were just huff & puff. God is faithful. The time has come round again.'"

    So it had. And I asked six-year-old "Mr. B" to help. Bored with a day off school, he was delighted. Off we stomped to the barn for the miniature stable which would fit like a glove onto the face of an old fireplace in the chapel. Far too heavy for Brendan to lift, and almost too heavy for me, Brendan was content to give supervision.

    It was a good start, but other adults and adult agendas interrupted.

    "Oh Mom," cried Brendan late in the day, "Uncle Mark waited for me to put up the creche!" He had spied the stable still lying on the wheelbarrow beside the porch.

    "Wait" of course, was a euphemism for my frantic rushing about. But, thank God, at six, Mr. B had thought I had kindly waited. At eight, he'll know I had clumsily procrastinated.

    At last, after supper I gave the signal for our ascent four stories up to the attic. B sat on the steep attic flight and merrily gossiped while I crawled after the boxes of heavy figures. He "helped" me down with these. There was no procrastinating now. Mr. B was in charge!

    I shuddered as he popped the first terra cotta figure out of its thick wrapping. I tried to calm my voice as I said, "Just put it on the rig and watch not to chip them."

    "Oh why not?" I asked myself. He unpacked all the rest. I then explained, as we hunkered before the empty stable like engineers before a field project, how we would proceed with empty boxes and the rest to build up the floor for the figurines. Then I retired to a pew and Brendan took over - once flying to the third floor for his new sneakers' box to support St. Mary.

    "Now we cover and stuff with straw," I directed. And by gosh, it was done.

    Then the figures, ox, ass, Holy family, shepherd with dog, kneeling shepherd, shepherd with sheep, and lambs took their archetypical places.

    With a final sweep up of straw and storage box removal, I suggested we turn out the house lights, sit in a pew and judge the effect.

    Brendan approved of our hidden boxes which gave figures an interesting arrangement and he noted the lighting was at the correct angle - coming from the star. All considered, it was a success.

    I said, "Now Mr. B, while we're sitting here let's ask Jesus if he'll bless our creche and help everyone who sees it remember him... you know, some folks will come to church sad, some grumpy, some tired, and they'll pray when they see our creche. They'll remember baby Jesus and cheer up."

    Brendan was rubbing his eyes. "Darn it," I thought, remembering his allergies to hay. Aloud I said "I'm sorry Brendan, I think all that straw has made your eyes itch."

    His little head turned up and he gave me "the look." The look is deadpan - straight lip of restrained disgust, sad eyes showing sympathy for a lesser intelligence.

    "I am rubbing my eyes," he explained, "because I am crying because I am so happy."
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