Sunday, December 21, 2008

Here Comes Jesus, Ready or Not

Wed, December 17th

On the street outside the schoolhouse old grandmothers sit and wait for their prey. They have set up little stands selling gelatinas and chili coated lollipops and chewing gum and potato chips under the shade of the Mesquite trees, where they gossip with their comadres until the schoolbell clangs and the children come spilling out like plaid confetti from a shoebox, pesos in hand.
Today I walked by on my way into town just as the bell rang and was suddenly surrounded by hordes of children of all ages streaming down the cobblestone streets. Each of them was carrying a hand made nativity diorama made from popsicle sticks, twigs, straw and moss, with plastic sheep and donkeys and figurines glued to cardboard boxes. Each had a miniature baby Jesus doll nested into matchboxes filled with cotton or moss. There were orange ceramic roosters wired onto crooked little rooftops, painted backdrops of the night sky with glitter for stars, and silver foil cutouts of the star of Bethlehem wobbling precariously from the tops of pipe cleaners. I was drowning in a sea of mangers weaving all around me. Unable to move, I stood and watched as my cynical heart melted just for a moment.
Just then a small boy squeezed by with his diorama carefully perched on his head. Among the plastic menagerie of animals and wise men and angels glued in a neat circle around the baby Jesus, he had added a pink flamingo and a snowman wearing a red Santa hat.

In the market, tables are overflowing with everything you could possibly want to make your very own Nacimiento. Baby Jesuses of every size and color are piled next to painted red devils and pink pigs. Marys and Josephs collide with donkeys and cows. Tinsel and crepe paper, fireworks and stars. Christmas lights beeping out Jingle Bells and other familiar holiday tunes.
And on the street the poorest of the poor sell little piles of moss and reindeer made from twigs that they have gathered from the countryside. It's almost enough to make you want to believe.


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