If Only Mangers Were Mangier


Joe Kay wishes holiday crèches weren’t so idealized:

If our manger scenes were realistic, Mary would be recovering from a painful labor full of sweat and blood, with a look on her face that’s anything but serene. And Joseph — wouldn’t he be a nervous wreck, too? His hand too shaky to hold a lantern? And about that newborn. Shouldn’t he be red-faced and screaming? Eyes clenched closed and wisps of hair stuck to the top of a head that‘s still odd-shaped from all the squeezing? Instead, we’ve sanitized and romanticized it. We’ve removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. It’s no longer something real. We’ve left out all the messy parts. The oh-my-God-what-now parts. The I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts. The oh-no-I’ve-stepped-in-the-animal-droppings parts. The real parts. …

It’s not about a calm-faced mother and a lantern-toting dad with a perfect baby stretching out its arms to the world. It’s about us as we really are. Bleeding and screaming. Covered in goo and disgrace. Aware of our many failings and falling-short moments. Coming apart. Barely holding it together. Unable to explain why we make such bad choices so many times. So, here’s an idea. Let’s replace those plastic manger scene figurers with something more real.

(Photo by Oscar Llerena)