Walking one afternoon, I thought I had discovered the most forlorn nativity scene in Christendom. It was an ancient model of old school plastic, situated on a dead end road, and displayed in front of a manufactured home gone to seed, near three vehicles with expired tags. The home’s decking and children’s play structure was wrapped in yellow caution tape. A couple windows were boarded. Bikes, lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, toys, dolls, bottles, cans lay strewn about the yard. One of the Three Wisemen was knocked over, as was a sheep. A strange and undulating Baby Jesus looked uncomfortable in the manger, almost as if he was being tortured. I did notice an extension cord running from the home and plugged into the scene and I decided to return in the evening to see it lit up. I imagined nothing short of grim and ghastly, a real unintentional exterminator of Christmas spirit. Interestingly enough, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Three Wisemen all had a ten million dollar ocean view. Such extreme contrasts like this one intrigue me as a person and writer. Friction between these contrasts leads to good stories.
I set out at the stroke of 7. A sliver of moon hung in the clear sky and a decent amount of stars appeared to remind me of human insignificance. I absolutely relished the idea of seeing the most forlorn nativity scene in Christendom become even more forlorn. As I approached the display, I saw falling snowflakes being projected onto the home by some hidden device. A few seconds later, I stood in front of the display, all lit up, no burnouts. The Wiseman and sheep were still flat on the ground. I could hear the ocean caroling in the distance and a couple of gulls flew overhead. I began to look harder. I begin to ask questions. I renounced all previous definitions of forlorn as they pertained to nativity scenes. It occurred to me that someone had exerted some effort to haul this scene out of storage, set it up, run the extension cord and rig the projector for the snowflake show. Yes, no effort was exerted to tidy up the grounds, but therein was the contrast. It was somehow beautifully disheveled and brimming with a gritty holiday spirit. It was a tiny speck of merry order in chaos. Probably a dozen people will see this nativity scene before it gets put back in storage in May.
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