Ever since her school Nativity play, the Maiden has been obsessed with acting out the Christmas story. Because she doesn’t have 40 classmates to assign parts to, she’s making me play the roles of everyone. (When I said as a kid that I wanted to be an actress when I grew up, this was not quite what I had in mind.)
I like being the innkeeper best; as she approaches on her donkey, I can shout out, “No room in this inn!” and keep typing. Playing Mary is a little harder, and not just because she requires me to cram her baby doll into my shirt. I have difficulty saying the proper responses, because they are completely the opposite of what I might do in a given situation.
Now I get that Mary was a lot better of a person than me. That is evident merely by the fact that she gave birth to Jesus and I gave birth to the Maiden (no offense meant to the Maiden, but–you know). But as I’m acting out her part in the Maiden’s play, I can’t help wondering how differently the Nativity story might have played out if it was me on that donkey, thousands of years ago.
Let’s start with the angel. If an angel appeared to me to tell me I was going to have a baby, I would be dialing the cops before he finished talking, while frantically recalling the moves I learned in that self-defense class I took last year. But even if I believed the angel was from God, and I got through the hey-Joseph-I’m-pregnant-but-it’s-not-what-you-think part (how’s that for daytime television drama?!), it wouldn’t have been smooth sailing.
When Caesar published his decree ordering everyone to return to the town of his birth, I would have had a few choice things to say about Caesar, the decree, Bethlehem, and the fact that Joseph’s hometown was so darn far away. Then I would have flatly refused to go. Can you imagine? If someone had told me that, at eight or however many months pregnant with the Maiden, I had to get on a lumpy, bumpy, braying donkey and travel over hill and dale to some fleabitten town where I had to get a strange doctor and have this baby and then travel back with the baby in tow and hope there was a Wal-Mart or something along the way where I could get diapers and blankets…well, let’s just say that the only “holy” thing about it would be the issuance of that word from my mouth, followed by something unprintable.
Then they get to Bethlehem. And there’s no room in the inn. What?! I’m practically in labor, and those selfish jerks staying at the hotel won’t offer me a place to rest when they’re perfectly capable of lying out on some hillside? This is like the clueless morons on the bus who won’t give up their seats for a pregnant woman, but multiplied a hundredfold. People say the world has gotten worse, but the fact that the inn’s guests weren’t fighting one another for the opportunity to give up their rooms for me is clear proof that it’s pretty much the same.
Oh, how lovely, we can sleep in a stable full of stinky animals instead. And amidst the germs, I can deliver my baby. And then I get to lay my newborn in, basically, a feeding trough filled with straw. I’m not a happy camper at this point. Just in time, three rich men arrive to give gifts to my child. Everything will be all right now, right?
Not quite. They’re bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh instead of blankets and diapers. I know you’re supposed to be grateful for any gift you get, and the gold will certainly come in useful (assuming Bethlehem’s bank does foreign currency exchange, and also assuming it’s open– it’s Christmas, after all). But do I seriously have to lug around giant canisters of incense and enbalming spices? Clearly, the kings forgot to consult their wives when they went shopping.
At that point, I might have completely lost it. 2000 years later, people would still celebrate Christmas, but the Nativity story would be an adults-only performance that was rated R for violence and mayhem. Luckily for the world, I was born much too late.
A merry Christmas to all!