Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Manger Scenes Don't Reflect Real Life - Joe Kay in Sojourner's

We’ve sanitized and romanticized it; removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. It’s no longer something real. We’ve left out all the messy parts; the oh-my-God-what-now parts, the I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts.

Figures in nativity scenes are pretty weird, aren't they?

First off, there’s Mary, always looking very fresh and calm and full of reflection — which is quite impressive considering that she just gave birth without any sedative.

Then there’s Joseph, doing some kind of man-thing off to the side — holding a lantern or a large stick. He looks totally composed, too.

And there’s the baby Jesus with a full head of hair, wide-open eyes and arms outstretched like he’s ready to belt out a song.

Not to ruin anyone’s Christmas spirit here, but what the heck?

If our manger scenes were realistic, Mary would be recovering from a painful labor full of sweat and blood, with a look on her face that’s anything but serene. And Joseph — wouldn’t he be a nervous wreck, too? His hand too shaky to hold a lantern?

And about that newborn. Shouldn’t he be red-faced and screaming? Eyes clenched closed and wisps of hair stuck to the top of a head that‘s still odd-shaped from all the squeezing?

Instead, we’ve sanitized and romanticized it. We’ve removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. It’s no longer something real. We’ve left out all the messy parts. The oh-my-God-what-now parts. The I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts. The oh-no-I’ve-stepped-in-the-animal-droppings parts.

It’s not about a calm-faced mother and a lantern-toting dad with a perfect baby stretching out its arms to the world. It’s about us as we really are. Bleeding and screaming. Covered in goo and disgrace.

Our manger scenes depict a far different story than ones written 2,000 years ago. Those old stories tell of a young couple that’s been disgraced by questions about the baby’s father. The grand moment comes in a place nobody would choose to bring a baby into the world. A bunch of shepherds are the first to hear the news. Dirty shepherds — among the lowest people in their society. Religious outcasts because they couldn’t observe the purity rituals while working in the fields.

And this baby grows into a man who hangs out with all the unsavory folks in his society. The ones that the religiously observant people call sinners. Poor people. Dirty people. Rough people. All sorts of social and economic outcasts. He even turns fishermen — some of the roughest and lowest people in his world — into his closest friends and followers.

The full article is available here