Here comes the leap, are you ready?
In Italy, where the Nativity crèche originates, everyone is welcome! Way beyond the three kings, the shepherd, the host of angels and the little drummer boy, beyond the menagerie of camels, oxen, sheep, chickens, goats and donkeys you might find in the original nativity, Italians love to place small statues of all of their patron saints, heroes, and icons in the manger.
Jumping to the most extreme, I will admit I laughed out loud when I first saw Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and a small blue Smurf among the statues of a nativity scene!
But it made me pause to consider the possibilities
Imagine a man who has always loved the silky smooth voice of Elvis, especially his gospel music and best selling Christmas album Blue Christmas. As a young man he had a desire to be a famous singer, but now, long past the age limit of American Idol, he must content himself with singing Christmas carols with his family. Maybe he has been a faithful member of his church choir for many years and this year he gets to sing a solo at the midnight mass! Wouldnt it be a wonderful surprise for him to wake up on Christmas morning and find a small statue of the King among the three wise men? Surely he would cherish this gift the rest of his years!
It is easy to imagine a young woman with a troubled past, filled with angst, like almost every teenage girl I have ever known. She holds onto a secret dream of being an actress, knowing well that her evening courses at the community college will lead her to a career in pediatric nursing, but look out when Saturday night karaoke rolls around. Count her in for make-up, painting sets and sewing costumes for every community theatre production.
Her dreams were nurtured early on: She was one of the sheep in the annual Christmas pageant, a carrot in the kindergarten play about nutrition, and a bright, shiny, tap-dancing tooth in a locally produced TV commercial for her dentist. She gradually progressed from mouse to mouse king, candy drop to snow princess in the annual production of The Nutcracker. All through high school she teaches dance at Miss Kims Dance Academy instead of flipping burgers at a fast food joint.
But make no mistake about it, she is old school; she loves the old movies from the long ago time when the actresses were glamour queens. Her bedroom is decorated with vintage movie posters. The young Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe are her heroes. All of them were blazing stars.
When she gets her first apartment, a few weeks before Christmas, her family buys her a first nativity as a house warming present. Her kid brother finds a statue of Marilyn about the same size as a shepherd, he even figures out how to remove the wings from an angel and super glues them on so they look like they belong and there you have it, an angelic Marilyn Monroe wearing the beautiful white dress from Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend blowing a kiss to the Christ child!
But Smurfs you ask? Sure! Heres the story:
While mom and dad are Christmas shopping, their little boy is left at Grandmas for the day. Grandma loves to read aloud. Jordan loves the stories she tells. After hearing the story of the Drummer Boy and how everyone has a gift to offer, grandma gets out the toy box.
They spend the rest of the afternoon playing with Jordans daddys favorite toys. Daddy had a full set of all of the little blue Smurfs. Like most children, Jordan marches the toys around and acts out the stories grandma just told him.
Later that afternoon, strapped into his car seat, he is still playing with his favorite little blue Smurf. Mommy and daddy are asking about what he did at grandmas. Everyone laughs a daddy makes up stories about the Smurfs.
Just before bedtime, the little boy notices more presents under the tree. He is just beginning to read and sees his name, J-O-R-D-A-N, on a few of the brightly colored boxes. Thinking about the story of the Drummer Boy, he finds the little blue Smurf in his pocket. Jordan! Its bath time! his mom calls. He sees the manger scene and puts the Smurf there for safe keeping while he takes a bath.
While mommy is tucking him in for the night, daddy is picking up toys and straightening up. He spies the Smurf standing over the crèche as if he is watching over the baby Jesus. Daddy puts two and two together. He gets it. He knows that it is about so much more than just the toys. With a tear in the corner of his eye, he knows Jordan gets it, too. For many years to come the little blue Smurf has a place of honor in the manger.
Who is welcome in your house? Who are your patron saints and heroes? What statues or icons might you add to your nativity each year in your growing collection?
Brian "Fox" Ellis · Fox Tales International