Shepherds (grade school boys and girls wearing bathrobes) sat by a smoking brazier. Tethered goats ate at the hay scattered in front of the Winter Park Presbyterian education building, and Dominic the Donkey stood within a separate enclosure with his head down. Joseph and Mary entered the lot and took their place beside stacked hay bales and a manger. Mary wore a pregnancy pillow under her robes, and walked with the confident stride of a woman who was not about to give birth. Dominic began to pace as if impatient for the impending delivery. Mary and Joseph disappeared for several minutes, and Christmas carols played over a loud speaker. Dominic paced.
Mary and Joseph reappeared, and Mary carried a swaddled baby doll which she placed in the manger. Angels entered from the right and stood before spotlights shining up at them from the ground. The shepherds turned away from their brazier to absentmindedly study the supernatural beings, and then wandered over to Mary, Joseph, and baby doll Jesus. Dominic brayed. The loud speakers drowned him out with more carols, and the shepherds lost interest in their savior and wandered back to their tethered goats. The wise men entered from the left and briefly confabbed with King Herod. They then wound in a snake like path over and around the lot, in and out of the “flock” of goats, and timed their arrival at Jesus’ feet with the last falling notes of “We Three Kings”. Dominic brayed once more.
More hymns played on the speakers; more pre-recorded passages from Luke were read. Dominic the Donkey ignored Scripture, lay on his back and squirmed from side to side to relieve an itch. The kings eventually departed. Mary, Joseph and baby doll exited, and the junior pastor came out of the shadows. Dominic brayed loud and long as Pastor Emily began to speak. She paused and introduced her heckler with amused forbearance. She then invited the children to pet the goats, warned them that Dominic could be temperamental, and advised parents to keep their toddlers away from the flames of the brazier. She then invited all to come inside for cookies, drinks and more carols, and told them that all were welcome to find a home for worship at W.P.P.C.
Judy and I went inside and took refuge in the sanctuary. The crowd of adults and rambunctious children in the fellowship hall drove us to find a quieter place to relax. Candles on the altar and a Christmas tree to the right gave a warm glow to the nave. Bright red poinsettias and a Christmas banner ( a sheep standing in a Christmas Star lit landscape) added accents to the front of the hall. Judy and I sat near the back and meditated for several minutes. I paged through a Bible in the pew where I sat, and I came upon a psalm that asked God how long the arrogant and wicked would be allowed to prosper.
Judy turned to me and smiled. We held hands and felt the peace of Christmas.