by Jill Ragar Esfeld
People often talk about “getting into the Christmas spirit,” and the event, song, movie or activity that gets them there.
For me, there is no better entry into the spirit of Christmas than the Nativity story as told by St. Luke.
Give me a quiet moment, a comfortable chair, a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and my Bible.
I turn to Luke 1:26 and the amazing story begins: “God sent the Angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin.”
And I am transported back to that startling moment of Mary’s fiat.
With Mary I will go on an incredible journey from a life-changing encounter with an angel, to the warm embrace of a dear cousin, to a barn on a cold night in Bethlehem where shepherds are drawn to the sight of her infant son.
Hallmark step aside; there is no better storyteller than St. Luke.
He was a historian, a gifted writer, with a penchant for detail and a desire to get the facts straight on this incredible tale he heard about a man he’d never met.
St. Luke didn’t mess around with hearsay; he went straight to the source.
Jesus was no longer available for an interview, so many Bible scholars believe St. Luke got his information from the Virgin Mary.
That’s why his account is filled with touching details.
And that’s why he makes a point of ending his story with the words “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
Every woman who has ever given birth knows the truth of that statement.
St. Luke’s Gospel is an important part of Christmas tradition at our house.
The manger at the center of the crèche on our entryway table is empty through Advent. Joseph and Mary are alone, waiting.
Jesus is wrapped in a tiny blanket and tucked in a box that sits in a bookshelf — beside the wise men who will wander around our house until the Feast of the Epiphany.
On Christmas Eve, our family gathers around the Christmas tree to light our Advent candles one last time and read aloud the Nativity story from the Gospel of St. Luke.
On Christmas morning, Jesus “miraculously” appears in the manger.
When my children were young, they would run down the stairs and go first to the crèche to see if Jesus was there.
He always was, because Santa put him there, and Santa also left Jesus’ birthday cake on the fireplace hearth in place of the cookies and milk we’d left for him.
Our family would have birthday cake for Christmas breakfast — a real treat!
This tradition kept Jesus at the forefront on a morning when it’s easy for children to get caught up in the temporal world.
Now my children are grown and visiting home for Christmas. But they still go to the crèche first thing on Christmas morning to see if Jesus is there.
A little birthday cake is still left on the fireplace, but I’m pretty sure they realize now that Mrs. Claus didn’t bake it.
And Christmas breakfast has become a heartier feast of egg casserole, sausage, bacon, biscuits and mimosas.
But we still have a little slice of birthday cake, too.