Have you noticed the wide variety of things people put in their yards to celebrate Christmas these days? Certainly the nativity-scape seems more cluttered than when only baby Jesus and Santa struggled for it just a generation ago. When our kids were growing up, we would sometimes drive around at night in mid-December and look at all the decorations. Some folks do nothing to celebrate; others tip their hat, some use good taste and some lose their minds in Clark Griswold or Tim the Tool Man fashion.
It was always the most high wattage, energy eating, gaudy and over-commercialized of efforts that got the ooh’s and ah’s from Zec and Lydia when they were small. There were always a few of these homes in the lost their minds category that grouped their décor into categorical clusters the way scientists classify animals and plants. Some had Disney characters in one quadrant, Fox network cartoon characters in another, Santa’s entourage in one and a nativity in another. The nativity quadrant was often the oldest, most faded, least expensive and poorest lit. They normally consisted of three feet high, plastic figures of Mary and Joseph with a small light inside. These things weighed about six ounces, tended to tump over (is tump a word?) and on a windy night you could sometimes find Joseph rolling west down the street. (Mary never could get him to stay home.)
I always figured people bought their plastic, plug-in nativities before they franchised into secular markets; by the time we saw them, they clearly had lost some of their luster (and paint). I must confess that even my adult eyes are more quickly drawn to the wattage enhanced, blow-up Frosty the Snowman bobbing in the wind and churning up fake snow than the tiny Jesus tucked into the circa 1966 manger. I often wonder how people who don’t know, would know, which one, was the One. Perhaps that is our problem these days at Christmas; we have trouble spotting Jesus in all the lights.
-Shane L. Bishop is the author of “Exactly as I Remember it” and the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois