A Dinosaur and Baby Jesus
This year, my wife and I had the pleasure of participating in the Christmas Eve services for the first time at our new church in Berkeley. We were originally planning on attending just one service, until one the pastors asked me if I was willing to be crowd control for the Family Service. I was hesitant to commit to another service, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was happening that needed crowd control. Were kids allowed to run amuck during the service? Was the pastor planning on making some controversial statements that might elicit a violent reaction? Was Carrie Underwood performing a musical rendition of the Nativity? Of all things, a Christmas Eve Family Service was the last place on earth where I would have expected crowd control. Intrigued, I agreed to help out. And because my wife is so amazing, she agreed to join as well.
It turns out that at the Family Service, there is a re-enactment of the Christmas story, complete with narration, carols, and costumes. But rather than having a few people play each individual role, everyone is invited to participate. And I mean everyone. When we walked into the sanctuary, we were met with a hilarious and astounding sight. There were 40-50 angels running the gamut from infants to young girls to teenage boys and even middle aged parents. There were another 30-40 shepherds and about 20 stuffed sheep in tow. There were a few girls who came dressed as Mary with their own baby Jesus’ wrapped in swaddling cloths. Fortuitously, there was only one Joseph and three wise people. And then there were animals and townspeople. There was a 4 person camel costume, for which three junior highers were scrambling to find someone willing to be a rear end. There was a group of adults who came dressed as a cop, indian chief, construction worker, and cowboy (The Village People). And my personal favorite – a 4 year old dressed as a Dinosaur who wanted to be as close to the manger as he possibly could. No wonder they needed crowd control.
As this strange sight unfolded before my eyes, I was struck with two thoughts. First, I was struck with how fitting it was that there was a Dinosuar and the Village People come to worship Jesus. Though historically, it was only a select few who were present for the birth of our Savior, theologically, all of creation was wrapped up in that blessed evening. In Jesus, we have the culmination of creation, the one through whom Dinosaurs and the Village People were created, the one through whom all things find their life and the one through whom all things will be reconciled, whether in heaven or on earth. The birth of Jesus was not just for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and wise men. When we peel back the curtain, we see that all of creation is looking on with hopefully expectation, whether we realize it or not. Of course there should be a Dinosaur worshipping Jesus in the stable. It may not be historically accurate, but it’s truth is of a much deeper and different kind.
I also realized that, in having everyone free to come dressed as whatever character they wanted, we were reminded that the Christmas story is one to be lived, not just read. For some of us, we need to step into Mary’s shoes, to speak her words of humble acceptance – “let it be to me according to your word” – as our own; to treasure all these things in our heart along with Mary. For others, we need to learn to live as Joseph, willing to bear the others apparent shame as our own with silence and strength. For some, we find that our journey to Jesus was similar to the wise men, traveling many miles with barely anything guiding us, knowing there is more just beyond the horizon. And for others, we must find ourselves in the “innkeeper” who did whatever he could to make room for Jesus, knowing we must do the same.
I came to do crowd control and I left in awe of the God who takes on flesh, who holds all things together while being held by Mary. I came to work and I left with a reminder to not just hear or read the story, but to live it.
If you’re in Berkeley next year during Christmas, come to the Family Service at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. It will be a nativity story you will never forget. And feel free to come dressed as a Dinosaur.