Thursday, December 15, 2011

Batman and Elmo at the Nativity?

We have an abundance of small toys in our home.  (I know, with three children under the age of six – you may find that hard to imagine.)  There are some special ones that create a modest buzz when they are taken out of storage for the Christmas season.  Among these are the Fischer Price “Little People” Nativity scene, Ernie & Bert figurines with Santa hats, and a “Little People” Santa Claus and his Christmas Train (which includes a reindeer and Mrs. Claus bearing a plateful of cookies.) 

Each year I take a mirthful moment to create a new nativity scene with a child-like twist by incorporating other characters into the scene.  See, our nativity scene doesn't just have Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus with the attending angel, shepherds and three Magi, (for whom we have to incorporate the willing suspension of incorrect time lines, since they didn't really arrive until a few months later, but I'll wait to explain that to the boys.)  But ours also includes Santa and Mrs. Claus.  It also includes Hippos, Giraffes, and Elephants; and then I add other non-traditional visitors to the manger scene.  Our scene also includes characters like Kermit the Frog, Batman, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Dora the Explorer, and Aquaman.  (Aquaman’s “swimming arms” can also be posed to look like he is praising the Lord, which I think is fun.)  There are also some of the less likely characters, including Swiper the Fox, Oscar the Grouch, and Batman's nemesis, the one that gets all the other toys into trouble and is always ending up back in jail - the Joker.
I overheard Joanne playing with the kids and interacting with these toys.  I was quite tickled to hear her giving voice to Mrs. Claus at the manger scene, “Hello Mr. Wise Man, would you like a cookie?”  I like that idea.  I like the paintings that have been done of Santa kneeling at the manger.  The idea of Mrs. Claus being there too and giving out cookies to weary travelers… It just makes me smile.
The boys don’t like Swiper, Oscar, and the Joker.  They often get shoved under other toys and in drawers, but I try to keep them around because we try to make up stories together and every good story has good guys and bad guys.  (I remember a time I came into their room and they informed me that the Joker and Satan had put all the other toys into jail.)
Usually I include these other characters at the manger scene mostly for pure sake of whimsy.  But this year I feel quite intentional about it.  I want to see Oscar the Grouch at the manger scene, because I can be pretty grouchy too.  There are times I am cross with my children and I don’t like the way I sound and I wonder how I ever got Joanne to marry me, and so I hope and pray that there is room for Oscar the Grouch at the manger, so that there may also be room for me.  I want to see the Joker there.  I am not a homicidal maniac, but I have had hatred in my heart, and Jesus said that murder and murderous thoughts are the same thing, so I need to see him there.  I want to see Swiper the Fox there.  He is not beyond hope, and I wonder (and this is where the whimsy creeps back in) if he may be able to connect with Jesus at a deep rooted level, because, after all, didn’t Jesus come to steal all our hearts away?

Our Nativity scene, with added guests.