Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Baby Jesus Wars

It never fails. Once the nativity set at church is put out, the Baby Jesus War is on. You know what I mean. The struggle between those who believe that Baby Jesus must NOT be put into the scene until Christmas Day vs. those who believe that the scene is incomplete without him.

A few years ago someone tried to settle the dispute by using a set where the Baby Jesus is firmly affixed to the manager, all in one piece. Now we Calvinists should know not to underestimate the capacity of man (and woman) kind to continue a feud, but there is always hope. And so on it goes...the Baby Jesus is hidden by one faction in the drawer of the table on which the creche sits. Then He's liberated by the pro-Baby Jesus group. Back and forth, back and forth. At last on Christmas Eve the No-Baby Jesus faction gives it up and He gets to stay in the scene through Epiphany. At last, sweet unity among the bretheren and sisteren! Until next Advent.

When I was growing up we had a nice Italian-Renaissance style nativity set. It had a stable with real pieces of hay glued on it. The angel perched perilously on top of the pitched roof of the stable. My parents always set it out on my dad's black baby grand piano. Then the games began.

This wasn't just a Baby Jesus war--it was a war of all against all. There were four children in the family. Each one had a firmly fixed idea of how that scene should be arranged. As the oldest, I was always "neatening up" the work of my younger sister and brothers. Since I considered myself the "artistic" one, I strove for unity and symmetry of the figures.

My brothers would take the angel off the top of the stable (where I put her) and have her standing BEHIND the shepherds, off to the side. My sister would put the angel by Mary and Joseph INSIDE the stable. Since they were clearly WRONG, it was my duty to rearrange these figures several times a day. As the oldest I got to stay up a bit later, so I got the last word...until morning when the struggle began anew.

Looking back, I realize that there were a couple of agreed upon positions for the figures--Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and the manger usually remained inside the stable. But everything else was disputed. Isn't that like some of the disputes today between and among our churches? Christians have some consensus about a few basic things--but then engage in constantly questioning the importance (or arrangement) of everything else. We're much more interested in disputing what we disagree about (where's that Angel? Hide the Baby Jesus!) than on celebrating what we believe in common (Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and the Manger belong inside the stable).

The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles as well as the history of the church tell as that this is nothing new. If history is predictive of the future, we'll enthusiastically continue our Baby Jesus wars in some form or another until He comes again. Now...where's the Baby Jesus today?

11 comments:

John said...

There's worse.

reverendmother said...

Great post! I've never understood withholding Jesus, but I'm into realized eschatology:-D

Do the Jesus-hiders also wait until Jan. 6 to put out the Magi?

Quotidian Grace said...

No, RM, they don't mess with the Magi. It's all about Jesus!

Purechristianithink said...

Then there are the really (anal) purists who will argue that you should make a shepherds of magi decision. You can't put them together because they happen in different gospels. You have to decide, based mostly on what lectionary year it is, whether you will have a Luke nativity or a Matthew nativity. I'm not kidding--I've received criticism for my syncritistic creche.

see-through faith said...

Wonderful post. I laughed and inside I also cried because as church we aren't good at this! and PCIthink's comment about shepherds or Magi is sad sad sad

cheesehead said...

When my kids were younger, we used to find the most glorious creatures in the nativity scene, witnessing the birth.

I'm talking about Big Bird, a Red M&M's guy, Woody from that Disney movie, Barbie, fairies,...we never knew exactly who would be there. It became a game to see how many different figurines we could find around the house to put in the manger scene, and the tableau kept changing every couple of days.

Sigh...I miss those days!

Steph said...

Hmmmm ..... I wonder if that's why, by the time the sixth kid came around (that would be me) that the tradition was that the nativity set got set up by us when we got home from Midnight Mass ....

I do know of folks who have the wise men on the other side of the room, and have them gradually make their way to the stable.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I loved this post. I also love the image of RevMom's nativity with all sorts of people. That is really how it should actually be huh?

SpookyRach said...

Wonderful post, and I love the comments. Especially Stephs idea of the traveling magi working their way slowly across the torturous landscape of the suburban living room. ha ha!

St. Casserole said...

For years I had the Magi travel across the sanctuary toward the creche during Advent. Children seemed to enjoy watching the Magi make it to the manger by Christmas Eve. Biblically, the Magi should have arrived at the manger in January but we were in a hurry...

I haven't seen these baby Jesus wars in my congregations but at home the kittens move the creche figures around to fit their playful sense of the Christmas story. Most often the kittens paw the Wise Guys onto the floor.

see-through faith said...

I saw a link for women to accompany the magi today. In an advent calander. here http://edow.org/spirituality/creche/2005/058.html

the calander is from the episcopal diosease of washington

what do you think of that then? I was going to blog about it then wimped out!
then came here:) funny that!