Happy New Year … although nearly a week-and-a-half after making an entrance, 2023 is already starting to feel a little worn. That shiny newness attached to incoming years has a short shelf life.

There are still a few holiday clearance shelves left in stores. They’re fairly plucked over by now, mostly littered with ornaments packed in damaged boxes and squashed chocolates that looked a lot more festive back before New Year’s resolutions kicked in. I passed this lonely Nativity scene on a shelf in HomeGoods a few days ago:

Basic Nativity scene, a remnant from an anticipated holiday now viewed only in the rear-view mirror.

But then I looked again:

Things were not as they first appeared. This is not a happy family rejoicing over a blessed newborn. It’s … it’s a crime scene. A body has been discovered!

Who did it?? Who offed the angel? I studied each figurine. Mary and Joseph were above suspicion; they were too shocked by the discovery. So were these guys:


The discovery of this fallen angel appears to be an awful revelation to every person present except one. It didn’t take a thunderbolt from the blue to figure out the perp. It couldn’t be more obvious:

I mean, duh. Just look at the body language …

I admit to standing in front of this tableau for quite some time. Clearly, I took way too many pictures of it.

I could make a metaphor out of this if I wanted to, something about 2023 being filled with moments that aren’t what they seem at first glance, our need to take a closer look … but I don’t care about that stuff right now. What I like best is that this Nativity set-up was almost certainly not a random event. Somebody out there walked the aisle, saw an opportunity, and arranged the figures accordingly.

I don’t know who you are, Friend, but this was the most fun I’ve had in a store in ages. Without even knowing me, you lifted my spirits enough that I wanted to pay it forward for the rest of the day.

And that’s the part I want to carry into this new year.