My Elusive Search for the Baby Jesus

I get that Christmas means different things to different people.  What I don’t get is that there is not equal time given to the actual reason for the celebration.

It’s time for the Springers to “put up” Christmas, and since it’s been such a good year, I’ve decided to update some of my worn out janky-looking Christmas accoutrements including the Nativity scene I purchased at Walmart about 20 years ago.  Joseph broke in half a long time ago, so I subbed in a worthy-looking shepherd for him ever since (not sure how Mary felt about this, but he seemed like a utility player), both oxen are missing their ears, and for some reason, there are only two wise men.

(I think the other one—the one who brought the myrrh—must have been embarrassed by the ordinary nature of his gift.  This was before the current obsession with essential oils, so Myrrh Man, if you’re somewhere hiding in the attic, it’s okay to come out now.  Essential oils are a thing now.)

And because I was there to buy laundry detergent, tampons, and dog food, I swung by Walmart’s dedicated acre of Christmas crap in search of some JV players to fill out the varsity bench of my Nativity scene.  Or, as a last resort, I’d retire the current team and purchase a new one, maybe get some bigger, stronger players and a better, sturdier barn for them to play in.  Like I said, it’s been a good year.

After all, Jesus is the reason for the season, right?

Wrong.  I found *Disney character ornaments and other assorted Disney-themed Christmas stuff (‘stuff’ being the optimal word here—some of this shizz was pure junk), plenty of IU and Colts ornaments (I live in Indianapolis), stockings, and bric-a-brac, a lot of nonsense tchotchkes that had absolutely no relevance at all to the birth of our Savior, and even gifts for the family pet.  As if.

I found the same situation at other retail outlets.  There may have been one or two vague, one-dimensional, and poorly proportioned representations of the Holy Family, such as stuff one places in the yard (like the deer who often wind up posed in provocative mating rituals), but no Nativity scene.

Growing up, my dad, ever the craftsman, carefully and lovingly made several crèches—tabletop-sized displays of the Nativity (he made the barn part; my mom found the principals somewhere and I always found them fascinating).  Not sure where those beautifully made stables ended up, but whoever has them, take care of them (and if you have two, holla).  Because you won’t find anything like that ever again.

I finally found a Nativity scene at Kohl’s and guess what?  It was half off.

(Aside:  Why doesn’t Kohl’s just price their items at the current sale price?  The jig is up.  You’re not fooling anyone.)

This Nativity scene is white with gold accents, and the oxen are whimsical-looking, but at least they have ears.  Baby Jesus has one foot kicking out of his little nest, and I thought that was adorable.  But here’s the thing.

Kohl’s has an enormous space dedicated to their Christmas products, but there were only two varieties of Nativity scenes.  Again, like it’s lesser-educated drunk uncle across the street, Kohl’s had the Disney-themed crap, the sports-themed ornaments, the Dickensian villages (never quite got the allure of the “village” thing), and a few other secular items that had nothing to do with the birth of our Savior.

I get that Christmas means different things to different people.  What I don’t get is that there is not equal time given to the actual reason for the celebration.  And yes, I get, too, that Jesus was most likely born on a day that was not December 25, but that’s when we metaphorically blow out the candles on His birthday cake.  You got any better ideas?

I found my Nativity scene.  But the problem should have been that there were so many varieties in so many different retail establishments that I lost my mind trying to make a decision about which one I would proudly display in my home for the next 20 years.

*Full disclosure:  There is very little about Disney that I like.  Get over it.

The State of Indiana Needs Olivia Pope

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Recently, I started watching Scandal, that ABC über-slick drama (and I do mean drama) about Washington, D.C. mess cleaner-upper Olivia Pope.  That woman can put a spin on an anvil.

The State of Indiana needs someone like Olivia Pope who can take what appears to be really, really crappy, bigoted, right-wing nut job legislation and put a more realistic spin on it.  Or, maybe everyone just needs to read the actual bill and try to look at it from both sides.  Now.  And up and down.  And in and out.

I really don’t know clouds at all.

But I digress.  For my non-Hoosier friends, our governor, the wooden-headed Mike Pence, is about to sign into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which has everyone here in Indiana quite agitated.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In a nutshell, the law states, ““Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”  This means a couple of things to those of us who don’t speak legal-ese:  It means that if you own a business or provide a service, it will be more difficult for individuals to take legal action against you if those individuals feel that they have been the target of discrimination.  It means that religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, are not required to provide certain health care services to individuals under their employ if those services — birth control, for example — go against their core beliefs.  It means that if a bakery owner is a devout conservative Christian whose belief in a strict Biblical interpretation of marriage doesn’t include marriage between two people of the same sex, that bakery owner reserves the right to decline to make your wedding cake.

Yep.  That’s the one that has everyone in a tizzy.

The law does not mean that Indiana will revert to “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” entrances to public buildings.  It does not mean that African-Americans will now be relegated to the back of the bus.  It does not mean that LGBT individuals are now considered second class citizens. It does not mean that any one group will become the target of hatred, discrimination, and will have all of their civil rights abandoned because they belong to a protected class.

Historically, the initial bill was introduced into federal legislation by Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. However, the Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional as it applied to individual states.  Would it make you feel any better if you knew that the law was sparked by a Native American tribe’s desire to continue smoking peyote as part of their religious rituals?

Sparked.  Get it?

Or, would it make you feel any better that the federal law, the one introduced by a Democrat and signed into law by a Democrat, was opposed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia?  He stated, with regard to the Native Americans who wanted to continue with their peyote ritual, that the law “would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.”

For those of you not familiar with Justice Scalia, he’s about as conservative as they come. He’s so far to the right, I’m surprised he doesn’t fall off his bench.

So you see, the outrage over Governor Pence signing the RFRA into law is mostly coming from those who believe that their rights will be violated.  But what about the rights of the other side?  Why should their rights be compromised?

Back to Governor Pence.  Earlier this year, the governor launched what he called a “state-run news service”.  Really? Whose idea was it to call it that?  The Soviet Ministry of Propaganda?  It was a bad idea that was introduced to the public in the worst possible way. Luckily for him, he ditched it after a few days.  “JustIN” became “JustOUT”.

Then there was his run-in with the overwhelmingly elected “little engine that could” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.  Pence had the audacity to sign legislation that stripped Ritz of her role as leader of the State Board of Education.  Then, in a half-baked attempt to soften that blow, he truncated the ISTEP test by a couple of hours so that third graders wouldn’t have to spend 12 1/2 hours on the test–a test that measures the competency of their teachers but doesn’t do a damn thing that’s good for students.  I don’t know a parent alive who gets up the first Monday of March and exclaims, “Yippee!  My child gets to take the ISTEP test this week!”

Let’s not even mention Pence’s ulterior motives, here.

That’s why Pence needs some Olivia Pope.  Whether you agree with him or not, his delivery sucks.  I’m not asking him to be a strictly populist governor, but for crying out loud, can you at least listen to the people who elected you?  And if you feel so strongly about something, would it hurt you to take out an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star that would support your argument?  You have a captive audience; however, these days, most of that audience would like to see you captive somewhere other than the State House.  Like in the zoo.

The takeaway from all of this should be and hopefully will be this:  Hold firm to your beliefs. Be kind to everyone.  God loves all of us, regardless of who we are.  If you own a business or provide a service, examine your conscience very carefully before you deny anyone the fruits of your labor or your particular talents or gifts.  Maybe in the long run this will teach us all to be more tolerant and understand that the greatest gift we as Americans enjoy is the fact that–at least for now–we’re free to hold fast to our beliefs.

And when I say tolerant, I mean tolerant.