A Real Baby in the Manger

By Melissa Face

A Real Baby in the Manger

Nobody I know loves Christmas more than my Aunt Barbara Jean. She enjoys buying gifts, cooking meals, decorating her home, and celebrating with her friends and family. But I am sure that if I asked her what she loves most about this holiday, she would say, “I love celebrating the day Jesus was born.”

One of her ways of commemorating this occasion is coordinating our church’s annual living nativity scene. Each year, she enlists church and community families to sign up for a night in the manger. She recruits people for the parts of: shepherds, wise men, angels and, of course, Mary and Joseph.

On the nights leading up to Christmas Eve, passersby pause and marvel at our living nativity. They photograph the beautiful scene and encourage others to come and look as well. Drivers pull up and gaze for several minutes before heading on their way again. It is a wonderful sight.

Then, on Christmas Eve night, the nativity comes to life one final time as part of our church’s Christmas Eve service. After the benediction, everyone in the congregation heads outside. They hold lit candles and sing “Away in a Manger.” The members of the living nativity hold their poses while the congregation takes pictures.

A few days later, the manger is dismantled, and the costumes are packed away for another year. My Aunt Barbara Jean is usually quite pleased with how well her favorite project goes each year. In fact, I have only heard one little tiny complaint from her – if you can even call it a complaint. “One of these days, we are going to haπve a real baby in that manger,” Barbara Jean said. “I have always wanted a real baby to play Baby Jesus.”

On November 24, 2010, my husband, Craig, and I welcomed our baby boy, Evan Wayne Face, into the world. It was a wonderful, magical time for us, and we were excited to share our joy with everyone. We brought him home and began our new lives together.

A few weeks later, Barbara Jean called to check on us. “How is little Evan?” she asked. I told her he was doing just fine, and we were settling in nicely. “Listen, you don’t have to answer me now, but I wanted to see what you thought of Evan playing Baby Jesus in the nativity this year. He’s the perfect age. Will you think about it?” I told her I would, and I promised to get back with her in the very near future.

I talked with my husband, and we agreed that Evan would be a beautiful Baby Jesus. We also agreed that it was the least we could do for my Aunt Barbara Jean. After all, this is what she always wanted. I called her a bit later and told her that we would be happy to participate.

On December 24, 2010 (Christmas Eve), Evan was exactly one month old. We bundled him up in onesies, pajamas and a sleep sack. Craig and I dressed in our Joseph and Mary costumes, and we walked out to the nativity scene.

I sat on a hay bale and cradled Evan while Craig looked on adoringly. Moments later, the congregation filed out of the sanctuary, holding their lit candles. They gathered around us and sang “Away in a Manger.”

I could hear chatter through the verses of the song. “Oh, aren’t they beautiful,” one lady said. “Wait a minute,” whispered another. “That’s a real baby! That’s Craig and Melissa’s baby!”

The news spread throughout the crowd, and soon everyone realized that there was a real baby in the manger. I listened to the singing, held Evan closer and smiled. Craig leaned in and whispered, “I think we made history.”

“We did,” I replied. “And we also made someone’s Christmas wish come true.”

I looked down at Evan and kissed his forehead. He was fast asleep on some hay, in a manger, on Christmas Eve.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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