It seems that the year started only a few weeks ago, and now it is December. The tree is up, lit, and decorated. The rest of the decorations are in various states of being put up. Today, however, was both a happy and sad day in Long household.

Since our two children were little, we have been using an Advent calendar. It is a manger scene of cloth suspended on a wooden dowel. Each day of the month has a little pocket, and in the pocket a piece of the manger scene – a star, moon, sheep, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and, of course, baby Jesus. One piece at a time, the picture comes together – there’s a sermon in that somewhere!

Jackie and Jay used to take turns putting up each piece, starting with the star above the stable. Each year, they would alternate odd and even days, so that both kids had equal opportunity to place baby Jesus in his manger. Jackie insured it would be fair by putting a piece of paper in the December 25th slot (tucked in their with Jesus) showing whose turn it would be.

This morning is December 1st. I walked into the den and looked at the Advent calendar, each special piece in its own slot, each Velcro tab awaiting its own piece. I carefully pulled the puffy yellow star from the first pocket and put it in its place over the stable. Memories flooded back of little hands doing the same for so many years prior. And…of one mischievous little boy randomly rearranging the pieces just to irritate his sister.

As I stood there in the quiet, I reflected on just how blessed I am to have those memories. My wife and I will be putting the pieces in their places this year, but we will eagerly anticipate those not-so-little hands of our two kids putting Mary and Jesus in their spots on Christmas eve and Christmas day. I haven’t checked to see who will do the honors of putting Jesus in the manger this year, but I’d lay money on it that Jackie knows…even from Birmingham. I’d also bet that at some point the pieces get moved around, placing sheep and cows in the sky in place of the moon and star. I am, indeed, a blessed man.

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