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When Baby Jesus was a teddy

by
21 December 2012

Christmas does not always go as smoothly as planned. We asked our readers to make informal confessions

PETER BUTCHER

Jesus was in the holly

MY VICAR-husband was in his usual "I want to go to bed and not stay up for a midnight service" mode. This mood always lasted from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., and it was better to send him upstairs for a sleep, before reviving him with a strong coffee and a mince pie before he went over to church just before 11.

At five past 11, he was back, in a flap. I could hear him rummaging around in his study. "What have you lost this time?" I shouted down from the landing.

"I've lost baby Jesus," he replied.

Hugging my red cloak over my nightie - I was nine months and one day pregnant - I plodded over to church to join in the search. Husband was sure he had put baby Jesus on the ledge in the pulpit. I glanced at the adjacent window sill. There, sleeping on a bed of prickly holly, was the Christ Child, moved earlier that evening by an over-zealous cleaner.

All was now well in church. Not so at the vicarage. Our children, who had been fast asleep when I left, were both wide awake on the landing, looking on in amazement at their grandma. She was astride the new rocking horse, which had been meant as the Big Surprise. Santa's glass of port had been drunk. Grandma looked rosy and was giggling.

I giggled, too, but not for long. Sounds of a filing cabinet being opened and slammed shut, and drawers pulled open, reached my ears.

"What have you lost this time?"

"The prayer for the blessing of the crib."

The clock showed that there was one minute to go before the midnight service was due to start. Grabbing my fountain pen, I shot an arrow prayer to the unknown patron saint of quick-prayer-writers, and wrote a five-line blessing on a piece of card and shoved it into my husband's hand.

Three minutes later, I hung my head out of the vicarage window, and heard the opening strains of "It came upon the midnight clear". I caught the words: "And now for the traditional prayer for the blessing of the crib. . ."

How long does it take for a prayer to become traditional? Five minutes?

The importunate doll

VICARAGE children have to be very patient on Christmas day, waiting for daddy to finish all his services and duties before the present opening can begin. However, we did let them choose three presents to open before church.

So it was that our three-year-old chose her new doll to sit with her in the pew. I was pleased she was playing so nicely on Christmas morning; for she had a reputation as a wanderer. For a change, I could actually concentrate on the service, and rashly closed my eyes for the prayer of consecration.

I had, therefore, no idea that she was by now undressing her doll, and finding a string to pull from the middle of its back. As her daddy lifted up the chalice, an automated voice pierced the holy stillness with a loud: "I want a wee-wee." I wanted to crawl under the pew.

My university colours

CHRISTMAS morning started five hours after husband had crawled into bed after the midnight service. Husband went off to take the 8 a.m. communion, and I cooked bacon and eggs for when he returned at 8.45 a.m.

It was nearly 9 a.m. before I remembered that he had said that, after the service, he would go up the tower with the lay Reader to put up the flag. Recent gales had whipped the rope from its moorings, and it would have to be posted through the metal loop at the top of the pole.

In readiness for this operation, he had taken all my vacuum-cleaner pipes, and those of a neighbour, and lashed them together with my university scarf. His idea was to post the new rope up through the length of tubing and thread it through the flagpole loop.

His bacon was going cold, and the egg was hard, as I went to the lounge to look out at the church tower, expecting by now to see the St George's flag billowing out.

What I saw was two men clutching the parapet and laughing hysterically. They still had the flag in their hands. Instead, flying majestically was my green, yellow, and blue university scarf to the accompaniment of pipes. Vacuum cleaner pipes. Ding-dong merrily on high!

Only men allowed

OUR church has a "Come as shepherds, angels, wise people, animals" invitation to our crib services.

An animated ten-year-old "wise man" was vociferous in his views. "There were onlythree Wise Men and they were all men. You cannot have wise girls."

A double blessing 

IT WAS the little ones' nativity service. At the back of the church, mums were fussing around shepherds, putting towels and rope circlets on their heads. Angels in white party dresses looked like little fairies (one had even brought a wand).

The Kings were getting clothes out of the dressing up box. The boy playing Joseph looked sullen, and the girl being Mary, in a blue robe with a white head scarf, sat serenely nursing the baby Jesus. We were about to begin.

Then the door opened, and in came another little girl in blue and white, followed by her doting family. We now had two Marys.

Well, you can't disappoint young children; so for one year only we had an extra character at the Nativity. The second Mary became Jesus's gran. She got to hold the baby Jesus, and her parents got the photos they wanted.

File under 'J' 

EVERY year, the manger is retrieved from a local garage and placed in the church, filled with straw. In theory, the baby Jesus is not placed into the manger until Christmas Day. Except that the baby Jesus is required for various nativity and carol services, and the manger-plus-baby is lent out for a town-wide event. After Christmas, the various components are returned to storage, but they don't always all arrive as and when expected.

Here are some of the remarks we have had (all genuine):

"We've lost Jesus again. Does anyone have any idea where he is? We need him for the playgroup nativity."

"Jesus was in the manger when he shouldn't have been; so I popped him under the pulpit during the service, then moved him to the vestry. He's on top of the filing cabinet."

"I didn't realise you still needed Jesus after Christmas Day. I was going to put him back in the loft."

"If it's my Jesus then he is actually a little boy. You need to check under his nightie."

Carnage at the crib

I DID not drop the baby Jesus. I accidentally kicked him out of his crib, severing his head from his body, sending it rolling into the nether regions of the sanc- tuary. This was at a family communion service last Christmas Eve, when I was a eucharistic minister and following the vicar with the chalice.

Our church is very proud of its Victorian nativity set, and I felt very embarrased. The communicants who saw the incident burst into fits of giggles.

Thank goodness for superglue. The baby's head got stuck back on in time for midnight mass, but he now has a hairline crack across the neck. Thank goodness for patient, long-suffering vicars, too.

Little furry nose

THE girl playing the part of Mary in the nativity play promised to provide a doll to be "baby Jesus". She turned up half an hour before the service looking embarrassed.

"I don't actually play with dolls any more; so it turns out my mum has thrown them all out," she confessed. "But I have brought my teddy. Will that do?"

And so, that year, we had a very well-swaddled "teddy Jesus" as the central character of the play. Thanks to my dire warnings, none of the other kids dared to laugh at the baby's unusually furry nose.

 

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