What it’s really all about

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, December 23, 2017

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One of my favorite Christmas decorations is a tiny nativity scene atop my piano.

It’s not fancy or elaborate. It’s quite cheap actually – a gift from my grandmother many years ago.

The plastic, three-dimensional scene is also a music box that plays “Silent Night” while a series of lights – red, blue and green – flash against the backdrop behind Mary and Joseph. The music is incredibly high-pitched, piercing almost in its battery operated origin. It will actually make you cringe.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

But I love what it represents. At a glance, it’s obviously a depiction of the Savior’s birth, but it’s also meaningful to me as a gift from my grandmother.

She died in 2012, and every year when I unpack this at Christmastime it brings back fond memories of the holidays at her house. She lived in a small home in Saint Jo but every year hosted every holiday celebration for her five children, 10 grandchildren and growing number of great-grandchildren.

Widowed in 1969, she had long been the lone provider for her family and as we grew in numbers, there was always room for more in that house and her heart. It was a fishes and loaves thing.

In addition to a banquet of food and an endless supply of belly laughs, Grandma insisted on giving everyone a Christmas gift. We all drew names – the aunts, uncles and cousins – but Grandma bought something for everyone.

When we were little, she gave us toys, and as we got older, the gifts were often things we might need. As she got older, the gifts were often purchased in a group, like every girl got a bath towel and all the boys got a pair of socks. No matter the circumstances – bad weather, declining health or tight budget, there was something under the tree for us all. Sometimes she had to call my mom for help shopping, and there were years most of it was done on the Saint Jo square.

I’ll be honest; I don’t remember all the gifts she gave me. And I don’t remember the year she gave me the nativity scene. But it’s a little piece of her, a reminder of how much she loved me and her wish for each of us to have a relationship with God.

It’s little things like this that make the season special and give me a sense of peace in the midst of frenzied last-minute preparation. It’s not about the latest electronics, expensive clothes or trendy toys. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t get all your decorations out or never got around to baking those Christmas cookies.

Take a minute to breathe and enjoy the time together. Realize there are some things that won’t get done and instead focus on those with whom you share your life. That’s enough. And in the end it’s what matters most.

Kristen Tribe is assistant publisher of the Messenger.

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