The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow
Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow, short fiction and personal experience articles. She co-authored the book, Linked to Someone in Pain. She has been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children. Joyce attended Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship. She is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups. She has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam; one grandson, Lemuel Earnest; one son-in-law, Joshua, and a neurotic parakeet who can’t seem to keep a name. Joyce leads a small fiction group called StoryCrafters. She enjoys baseball, football, cream soda, and needle arts but not elevators. She currently lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania. You can also visit her blog at:

Frosty Visits the Holy Family

This is my favorite time of the year. Christmas is approaching, and we all know what that means—that’s right, lawn decorations! I love to watch otherwise lovely suburban properties transform into festive, winter wonderlands. Oh, the joy of watching homeowners string lights, some blinking, some not, all over their houses. To blink or not to blink seems to be a highly personal preference. Personally, I am nonblinking but, hey, to each his own. We see white lights, bright lights, multicolor lights, houses draped with only single- or two-color lights—and again it’s highly personal. I prefer many colors.

Large characters begin to appear, usually Santa and reindeer, gingerbread men and their gingerbread houses, snowmen, elves, angels, and, of course, the plastic holy family. You’ve seen them: Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, who always looks like he’s got a full diaper and for some reason is rarely swaddled properly. This disturbs me. It’s cold out there on the lawn. Often an angel is lurking around the nativity. Sometimes this angel is huge and no longer matches the holy family. It stands behind them with large spreading wings—sometimes blinking, sometimes not.

I prefer nonblinking angels. But I suppose if you need an angel, a giant one is the way to go. And the wise men are present and situated off to the left as though they are still arriving. Balthazar, it seems, is nearly always face down on the lawn. Am I right? He always falls down. Strong winds in Bethlehem.

What I find especially interesting is how the homeowners combine not only the religious aspects of the holiday but also the secular. Notice, however, as you are making your holiday wanderings this month that almost without fail the religious icons are placed on the one side of the lawn, while the secular are on the other. Except, of course, for one house I like to visit that has Santa in his sleigh being pulled by three reindeer flying over Mary and Joseph and Jesus. He’s actually hanging from a tree limb, but the effect works. I used to wonder what could possibly be going through the homeowner’s mind. “Oh look, Joseph, it’s Santa. I told you he was real. And look, he left me an Easy-Bake Oven.”

Now we have these giant inflatable figures popping up or blowing up on lawns everywhere. Great big Frosty the Snowmen, oversized penguins, gigantic Santas, and even incredibly large inflatable nativities. My favorite is the one with the holy family inside a snow globe complete with mini blizzards every three minutes—swirling pieces of plastic in a tiny vortex. I mean, wouldn’t you just love to have been a fly on the wall at the research and development meeting that created that one. “Oh, oh, I know, let’s put them inside a snow globe with swirling snow bits. People love that.”

But to the homeowners’ credit, I must say I am impressed and dazzled by how so many have chosen to keep Christ in their Christmas decorations. My father loved Christmas and always decorated the house . . . and not with those tiny sissy lights. He used only the large, manly bulbs that exploded when you stepped on them or threw them against a wall. He never put any blatant religious symbols on the lawn.

No, our nativity had a special, sacred place—on the HiFi. That’s right, the HiFi! That large chunk of furniture with the sliding door on top? For you young people, that’s where we hid the record player. Uhm, I could almost see Mary and Joseph swaying in time with Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Actually, they were vibrating from the beat of the woofer inside the cabinet. Nice, except there was that one time when someone stuck an elf inside the crèche. We don’t discuss it anymore.

Perhaps this memory is why I am so affected by Christmas lawn décor. I can still hear my father hollering that elves have no business in the manger. Just between us, I think it was my mom who committed the crime because that little tiny elf continued to appear and reappear throughout the year in the strangest places, and when discovered, Flossie would crack just the tiniest grin and her eyes would sparkle like tinsel.

But then one day, just a few years ago, as I was traveling I saw that someone had put Frosty the Snowman in line with the three kings. And it struck me: This is the gospel. So what if there’s an elf in your nativity? Or a Frosty in your three kings procession. Go ahead, invite the gingerbread men to see the baby Jesus, move Santa closer, put those snowmen right in there. All are welcome to visit with Jesus. So this year, if you are tempted to get upset when someone puts an elf in your nativity, don’t. It’s all right. We know elves are only fiction, but maybe he could represent those who need Jesus, just as they are, dressed in an elf suit even.

Merry Christmas!

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow