The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Finding the sacred in everyday life
When Jesus goes missing from the nativity…
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Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. \x34I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. ...
Simply Faithful
Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. Every day I got to listen as people told me about the things that were most important to them, the things that were sacred. But the newspaper industry was changing and few papers could afford to have an army of speciality reporters. So, I moved to cover the suburbs where, as luck would have it, they have plenty of religion, too. Eventually, children came into the picture. One by birth and another two months later by foster care/adoption. I struggled to chase breaking news and be home at a decent hour, so I made the move to what we journalists call the dark side: I took a job in public relations. (Don't worry. I work for a great non-profit, so it's not dark at all.) When I gave my notice at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, the executive editor asked me to consider writing a column on a freelance basis. She didn't want the newspaper to lose touch with its religious sources, and she still wanted consistent faith coverage. I was terrified. It took me about 10 months to get back to her with a solid plan and some sample columns. And so it began, this journey of opening up my heart to strangers.
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By simplyfaithful
Dec. 9, 2012 5:20 p.m.


It started innocently enough, this idea to let the boys play with a plastic nativity set. I thought it would be a nice distraction while we read Christmas books and a chance to reinforce the story of Jesus’ birth. But before we made it through the first few pages, there was trouble.

IMG_0489I did the parental nod toward my husband and subtly shifted my eyes over to Colt, our youngest son, who had an angel hanging out of his mouth and was shaking his head from side to side. I tried to not make a big deal out of it since it was family time – a time when we generally try to stay positive. So, we kept reading until our middle son, Benjamin, swiped a donkey and a shepherd from our oldest son.
I barely had time to lecture Benjamin on the need to share before I saw him knocking over the wise men and heading for the baby Jesus to get the other bad guys.
“Let’s not use Jesus for violence,” I said. “That’s not the kind of thing he teaches.”


A few more pages and the book ended. We pulled out the words to The Friendly Beasts, an old Christmas carol that talks about the gifts the animals brought to baby Jesus, and we took out wooden figures that the boys could use to act out the song. Somewhere between the cow offering her manger and the sheep bringing wool for a blanket, I noticed blue swaddling clothes hanging out of Colt’s mouth. I did the infamous finger sweep.
IMG_0520“You can’t chew on Jesus,” I told him while I checked for teeth marks in the wood. Thankfully there were none, so I wiped off Jesus and put him back in the manger.  He was only there for a few seconds before he went missing.
“Great,” I said, less than thrilled. “Where is Jesus?”
Then, I saw him. There, in the middle of the scattered Fisher Price nativity set and the jumbled wooden figures, was our Jesus in blue swaddling clothes.
Right there in the chaos of my little family. Unfazed and solid as ever.
“Can we play again tomorrow?” Benjamin asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Absolutely.”


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