The Empty Manger
Featured song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by the MoTabs
This was the first short story I’ve ever had published. I’m very gifted at making short stories long and long stories longer, so short stories aren’t really my forte. But this little tale is very close to my heart. My publisher was holding a Christmas short story contest so I decided to enter. Then I won first place, but I suggested that it was probably better if my work wasn’t eligible for the contest, since they’d already published my books. So, the contest winners were published in this collection along with my story, and unfortunately it’s out of print. (But used copies and e-books make it possible to still find it and read it.)
The story is about a woman who can’t have children and all efforts toward adoption have failed. Her husband is loving and supportive, but it’s Christmas time and the house is way too quiet. To make matters worse, someone steals the wood baby Jesus from the old nativity on their front lawn. This is metaphorical of the empty crib in the house. Then she makes a new friend who has the opposite problem—a large family of young children and no time for herself. The two women bless each other’s lives and the Spirit of Christmas blossoms. Hope replaces despair, the true message of the season comes through, and the baby Jesus is returned, freshly painted. There now, I’ve told you the story and you don’t need to read it.
Little point of trivia: I originally had these characters the same ones who adopted Tara’s baby in “By Love and Grace,” but the publisher asked me to change the names. I don’t recall their reasoning now. I made the change, but in my mind the stories are still interconnected.