Place of Honor
December 1998

“Place of Honor,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 45

Place of Honor

An old Nativity set in the hands of my son helped me refocus on what Christmas is all about.

Christmas was coming up fast, but I wasn’t ready for it. My husband was working 70 hours a week, our older children were nervous about semester finals, and I was in the first trimester of a pregnancy and feeling sick and sleepy. I would gladly have traded Christmas that year for a nine-month nap.

But my husband and I had the children to think of, so we dutifully bought a tree and pulled out the boxes of ornaments and gift wrap. The tree was up for just one day before three-year-old Danny ran behind it and knocked it over. Wearily we decorated it again.

To take Danny’s mind off the glittering tree, I showed him the ceramic Nativity set I had made years before. The cow had lost a horn, the donkey had one ear glued back on, and some of the paint on the shepherds was chipped. That was the price for allowing five children to handle and love it.

Each Christmas the figures were placed in a wooden stable on the old treadle sewing machine we kept in our living room. It was a place of honor. Three months earlier, however, that place of honor had been filled by a new TV-VCR.

The children were ready to set up the Nativity scene right away. “Wait,” I told them. “There’s a good show on TV tonight. We can put it up tomorrow.”

They were reluctant to wait, but I let them arrange the figures on the floor with their promise to put the pieces back in the box before they went to bed.

We watched the show that night—I forget what it was—and a few more the next day, and several the day after that. The figures stayed in their box, except when Danny would pull them out to croon lovingly to them. His favorite was the baby Jesus, though the animals and Wise Men received plenty of handling as well.

Nearly a week went by, and the older children forgot about setting up the Nativity scene. I continued to suffer through morning sickness, comforted in part by favorite movies and daytime game shows.

Then one day as Danny was playing quietly in the living room, I came in to an unsettling scene. The Nativity figures, in their various attitudes of worship, were arranged carefully on the treadle machine—all gazing adoringly at the television screen. And where was the baby Jesus? Danny was lovingly showing it “The Story of the Three Little Pigs.”

We took the TV down that day and found a quiet corner for it. Back to the place of honor went the Nativity scene, though Danny’s attentions had cost a Wise Man part of his foot. We just stood him close to the stable wall for balance.

I spent the rest of the month trying to remember the message my young son had sent me that day. I was still too nauseated to bake and too tired to decorate elaborately. But I shifted my attentive gaze from the things of this world and found a place for Christmas again in my heart.

Not as wise as the Wise Man, I had temporarily lost my way to Bethlehem. I followed the wrong star for a while, and though I finally arrived, I too needed to “stand close to the stable wall” to keep my balance. I renewed my faith in the importance of daily prayer and scripture study.

So much of what we give honor to is unworthy of our time and attention. I hope I will always be able to keep my eye fixed on the babe in Bethlehem and the star that guides us to Him.

  • Jan Tindall is Relief Society president in the Birmingham First Ward, Birmingham Alabama Stake.

Photo by Steve Bunderson