It started innocently enough, this idea to let the boys play with a plastic nativity set. I thought it would be a nice distraction while we read Christmas books and a chance to reinforce the story of Jesus’ birth. But before we made it through the first few pages, there was trouble.
I did the parental nod toward my husband and subtly shifted my eyes over to Colt, our youngest son, who had an angel hanging out of his mouth and was shaking his head from side to side. I tried to not make a big deal out of it since it was family time – a time when we generally try to stay positive. So, we kept reading until our middle son, Benjamin, swiped a donkey and a shepherd from our oldest son.
I barely had time to lecture Benjamin on the need to share before I saw him knocking over the wise men and heading for the baby Jesus to get the other bad guys.
“Let’s not use Jesus for violence,” I said. “That’s not the kind of thing he teaches.”
A few more pages and the book ended. We pulled out the words to The Friendly Beasts, an old Christmas carol that talks about the gifts the animals brought to baby Jesus, and we took out wooden figures that the boys could use to act out the song. Somewhere between the cow offering her manger and the sheep bringing wool for a blanket, I noticed blue swaddling clothes hanging out of Colt’s mouth. I did the infamous finger sweep.
“You can’t chew on Jesus,” I told him while I checked for teeth marks in the wood. Thankfully there were none, so I wiped off Jesus and put him back in the manger. He was only there for a few seconds before he went missing.
“Great,” I said, less than thrilled. “Where is Jesus?”
Then, I saw him. There, in the middle of the scattered Fisher Price nativity set and the jumbled wooden figures, was our Jesus in blue swaddling clothes.
Right there in the chaos of my little family. Unfazed and solid as ever.
“Can we play again tomorrow?” Benjamin asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Absolutely.”