MARY READY: The case of the disappearing nativity scenes

Mary Ready | Ready or Not

I’m waiting for the wise men to arrive from St. Cloud, Minn. After years of trying to find them in once traditional places, I did a “people search” for them on the Internet. I hope they get here in time to join Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on my lawn.

If you, too, are thinking to have anything outside this Christmas season that depicts the Biblical remembrance of Christ’s birth, lots of luck locating it in local department stores. But you’ll have no trouble finding blow-up Santas, snowmen, elves, giant candy canes, and lighted reindeer.

On Kelly Street, you’ll notice only one nativity scene. That would be mine. I’ve put it out in front of my house every Christmas since 1997. Last year, a friend built me a wooden crèche for the holy family, and this year, I’m hoping the wise men will be part of the display, although I know the biblical account places them later and elsewhere than the humble stable in Bethlehem where He was born.

Further down my street there once was a much more impressive one with a Mary that had the loveliest smile I’ve ever seen. A few years ago, I was walking by that neighbor’s yard and felt an urge to leave a note complimenting them on their beautiful testimony of faith and how much I enjoyed seeing it year after year. I left my note on the windshield of their car.

The next Christmas it was gone. I know those neighbors didn’t move since the cars in the driveway are the same. So, I began to fret about why their lavish light display was absent the holy family and wise men.

It even crossed my weird little mind that maybe my note spooked them into thinking a whacko was loose in the neighborhood, and they got rid of it so it wouldn’t attract unwelcome attention. But most of all, I wondered whether or not there had been a loss of faith, maybe even anger at God over some misfortune.

I make up stories in my head about people I don’t even know.

One summer several years past, I noticed nativity scene figures in a yard on Mountain Drive. Yes, summer! Joseph and the Baby were placed in the yard, but Mary and two wise men were off at a distance, facing the side fence with one wise man lying face down on the ground. For months, I would drive by and imagine “what if” stories. Those figures remained in disarray out in the yard through Christmas.

I had to fight the urge to stop my car, jump out, and arrange those figures properly on their lawn.

One Christmas season, I saw a sign out in front of a nativity scene in Fort Walton. It said something like, “To the person who took our Baby Jesus, please return Him. No questions asked.” I never knew if the Baby was returned, but the next year that nativity display was also gone.

A story is told of another supposedly stolen Jesus from an extravagantly lighted Christmas scene.

The offended family searched up and down the neighborhood that Dec. 26 on the off chance of finding the baby and returning Him to His manger cradle. After a few minutes, they spotted a little boy pulling a shiny, new red wagon. And in that wagon was the missing Jesus.

When asked why he had done such a thing, the child responded, “Just before Christmas, I prayed to Jesus and asked Him for a red wagon as my present. I promised if He would send me one, I would give Him a ride in it.” Don’t we all wish we had such a child-like relationship with Jesus instead of that “Thee and Thou” thing we think He wants from us? 

Simply through observation, I have developed my personal theory that nativity scenes are disappearing all over the world as we forget what Christmas is really about.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the attractive winter displays twinkling across residential yards. In recent years, Candy Cane Lane (i.e. Sea Oats Drive) has been a festival of lights attesting to the child-like spirit of awe that we associate with Christmas. It’s all very joyous and jolly, and I hope those neighbors will again turn their street into a wonderland celebrating the season.

Still, when there is no acknowledgement of Christ’s birth, there is an emptiness in the season. What’s the point of a birthday party if the birthday Boy is not invited?

Shouldn’t there be lights celebrating Him? Or will “the reason for the season,” (as clichéd as that sounds) disappear from our Christmas celebrations along with vanishing nativity scenes?

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.