A Romantic Christmas Mess

December 29, 2011

Last night I was putting away my favorite Christmas decoration. It is either a Créche, a nativity or a manger scene. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to call it. I want to appear intelligent and “The Créche” sounds more old-world-church to me. I believe that people who chose “Créche” probably have named their children “Martyr” or “Maglionn”. Adding extra, unpronounced letters to a kids’ name can mean that you are original and smart. I am not that smart.

The phrase, “manger scene”, sounds more like something a kid would say. If I was attempting to write a deep essay, I would use that one. I would say something about faith being best understood as a child. But I’m not writing anything that profound.

I think if I use “nativity”, it puts me in the middle. If I was looking to write a metaphor, I would explain that I found myself in the center of that manger. It is where I desire to live my entire life. I would express that the middle of the stable is the place true believers stood that night. “Nativity”, is most likely the word that I would chose anyway, even if I wasn’t writing a meaningful spiritual parallel. Which I am not.

I used to stare in wonder at the beautiful porcelain pieces. They are all there. The three kings adorned in rich raiment, bearing chests of wealth for the new king are pensively locked on the child in adoration. Their camels are regal. I don’t know if regal is a fitting description for camels. I hear that they spit. These camels however, have no intention of spitting. Beside them stand the shepherds. They are poorer looking than the kings, but appear as if they cleaned up a bit for the birth. I noticed that one of the sheherds is missing his wooden crookstaff. I wonder if my daughter’s Barbie collection has a suitable replacement. I have an Indiana Jones action figure whip, but that seems inappropriate. I may have to carve one.

There are three sheep, two cows, a docile donkey, a surprisingly little angel that hangs from a little nail in the front of the stable. I wrapped them all, one by one in red bubble wrap. It’s a pretty good sign as to how much I love these pieces, in that I didn’t pop a single bubble.

Finally, I took out Mary. She looks to be about thirteen years old, and in remarkably good shape given that she has just delivered a baby in a barn. Joseph, is on a knee. His concerned head is tipped to the right as he contemplates how this baby will change his life. Will they be buddies? Will the Son of God want to fish? What if he’s not very good at carpentry? Will he, Joseph, live long enough to see his “son” grow up?

The baby has his arms outstretched toward Mary, Joseph or a camel depending on how the scene has been set up each year. As I wrapped the last piece, I had one thought.

This scene is a romantic mess.

We know that there were no kings in the stable that night. There weren’t even wisemen there. We have no idea how many people actually showed. It may have only been two shepherds. There might have been animals, but being a farm owner, I seriously doubt the thoughtful expressions on the cows and donkey. I believe Mary would have been beat. Joseph may have been worried, and the baby was, most likely, asleep. The stable was little more than a cave. Angels probably don’t look like pretty nine year old girls or else they would have never had to tell people, “Don’t be afraid of me.”

I still love the Nativity.

I just realize that our desire for a romantic story has shaped the events of that night. Now most people are endeared more to the embellished tale over the reality. I came to understand that we have made a romantic mess out of the first story of Jesus. I wonder what else we have messed up in our quest for romance.

This year I will once again have to rely on God’s grace and His Spirit to retell me of love, forgiveness and Emmanuel. That will be my prayer today. “Lord, don’t let me mess this up”.

Now I need to get a stick, or else the shepherd will be holding a pink ski pole next year.

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