In our house, Baby Jesus is a hotly contested fellow.
By that, I mean the actual replica personage of the holy child. My children aren’t having a crisis of faith. They fight over baby Jesus figures. I’m not sure if their fixation is due to the fact that tiny things are always the cutest or if it is a reflection of their subconscious appreciation for the True Meaning of Christmas, but either way he (or she) who has the Baby Jesus is happy. Everyone else is a sucker.
Cue the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
As far as I can recall, the battle for Baby Jesus has been raging since my younger daughter was a toddler. Then again, pretty much everything before she was out of diapers is a hazy blur so it could have started sooner than that. But I can say with confidence that her fondness for absconding with the tiny plastic savior from our Little People nativity set has been at the heart of many conflicts over the years.
She is not alone in her adoration, however. This year, I signed my big kids up for a pair of ceramic nativity workshops. My daughter was to create the holy family figures while my son expanded the scene with some kings or shepherds or perhaps a donkey. He was mightily displeased by this arrangement because – you guessed it – he wanted to make the baby Jesus and it was deeply unfair, unkind, and unjust to force him to make farm animals instead.
I tried to explain the critical importance of the donkey, even resorting to singing a few bars of “The Friendly Beasts,” but he wasn’t impressed. He eventually grudgingly created a lone, lumpy shepherd whom I absolutely adore.
Although the infant king has caused his share of disagreements in our household, he was also the source of some true holiday magic last weekend. Our tradition is to decorate the house for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend after my kids return from spending the holiday with their dad. After tenderly unwrapping and installing our treasured nativity scene on the mantel, the kids announced their intention to perform a Christmas play.
They disappeared upstairs and I turned my attention to baking ginger cookies. Time passed. Then more time. I could hear activity upstairs, but no shrieks, screams, or other sounds of sibling warfare. Periodically, a child would venture downstairs in search of props. Did I have a shepherd’s crook, by chance? (A walking stick was deemed an acceptable substitute). Were there any leftover strands of Christmas lights? Could they borrow the light-up star from the front window?
Finally, all was prepared and I was ushered into the bedroom for the performance, which turned out to be a deeply charming reenactment of the Christmas story. You haven’t experienced the true spirit of Christmas until you’ve seen your ten-year-old wrapped in twinkle lights (to simulate angelic glow, of course) announcing the birth of Jesus to a five-year-old shepherd who responds by heaving a stuffed dog into the room, with cries of “here, Jesus – take my sheep as a present!” My son played the role of Joseph, naturally, and also stood in for all three magi, a task that not every thespian could manage with such gravitas while wearing a Jedi costume.
So if you come to our house during the holidays, do not be alarmed if Baby Jesus is notably absent from the nativity scenes. I assure you that he is well cared for and will (hopefully) find his way to the manger by Christmas.