I always envisioned living nativities as peaceful, warm and fuzzy type events. Not so!! We're missing the one at our parish so I thought I would truck it out to a joint production by the Methodists and Baptists. My friend, another Army spouse with a husband deployed, found it on the Christian radio station's "family" calendar.
Well, we arrived and had to wait in the sanctuary (after filling out registration cards!) listening to Christian rock music for thirty minutes. I should have left then. The kids, rightly so, were distrubed by the full rock band in church. Whatever happened to Christmas carols?
We started our little tour with a costumed guide and she tells us that the guards at the entrance to Bethlehem are a little rough tonight, so hold the little ones close. What? Where did I miss the growling centurions demanding taxes in the nativity narrative? We get there and found children pretending to be beggars and grown men screaming at the top of their lungs at us. All of my kids start crying and these guys don't let up, don't break character, refuse to tone it down. It was absolutely ridiculous. They were screaming they were going to put us in jail for not paying our taxes. There was even a little jail with kids in it.
We moved on and went through various "shops" in Bethlehem where the "townspeople" gossiped about the young couple in town that wasn't married and was having a baby outside of town. Everyone in "town" was mean and ugly. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the guide must have said "Shalom" fifty-five times and kept referring to us as Jews. Weird, very weird. I certianly expected a few grumpy innkeepers, but this was ridiculous. We finally got out of "town" and found a stable with 3 donkeys. One angel came out and proclaimed exactly one line from the bible and it wasn't "Glory to God in the Highest." No shepherds at all- my kids were expecting sheep at the very least! And catholics don't read the bible??
We finally see the Holy Family and they were peaceful and beautiful but at that point the kids just wanted to get out of there. There was no way they could have stayed and contemplated the incarnation after that spectacle. But oh, we weren't done. We had to talk with the pastors as they sat in front of crosses and a tomb and explained the importance of Easter. I expected some level of proselystism but at that point I was just so frustrated and wanted to get out of there.
As we were leaving my friend's three year old stated that she never wanted to go to Bethlehem because she didn't want to go to jail. It was like these people totally got confused about what feast we are celebrating. Those centuriouns belonged in the scourging scene in Mel's Passion!
I had such high hopes when we arrived in the picturesque little town with the big beautiful houses, old shops retooled into antiques stores, and Christmas lights on every streetlamp. When we turned the corner to the chruch the Huddle House's sign even said "Happy Birthday Jesus." Awww...how sweet! Leaving was another story entirely. I was doing serious damage control with my kids.
I have been thinking about it a lot and I almost feel that what happened was logical outgrowth of Protestant theology somehow.....let's skip over the incarnation and get right to the Easter story. I understand they were trying to show how dark and ugly the world was before Jesus' birth but please! What concerned me was the fact that these "actors" would not let up even in the face of crying children. Sadists. I kept thinking that this was being brought to me by the same people who brought me "Babywise"a/k/a "Growing kids God's way." Sorry, but its true. They probably thought they were doing my kids some favor by scaring them half to death....why make 'em soft? Oh well, I need to be more charitable.
This much I know...I will never go to another living nativity unless it is in my parish!!!