The Nativity Child
By: Melissa Smith
With the Christmas season just around the corner one year, we had a baby. This new addition changed the way I saw Christmas from that year onwards, but not in the way that I expected it would.
One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions is going to an outdoor nativity pageant. It’s a free gift every year to the community by the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which we attend. On a clear, cold night, just a few sleeps before Christmas, our family bundled up with our new baby and walked to the park.
The outdoor stage was set as ancient Bethlehem with a charming British Columbian twist—mossy rocks and Garry oaks formed the backdrop of the stable and inn. I snuggled my sweet bundle close to me on the bleachers as we watched the production. Lovely young Mary was called by an angel to bear a son. Live cattle were promenaded across with wise men and shepherds. It was beautifully done, and we felt the warmth of the season despite the frosty night air.
The pageant came to a close, and we were preparing to leave when our friend, the production manager, approached us.
“Could you stay for one more show tonight? We don’t actually have a baby Jesus. We’ve been using a doll,” she said rather sheepishly, then added, “Would you be willing to let your baby play the part for the last show?”
I looked down into the dark, trusting eyes of my little one. I hesitated for a moment. I didn’t really want to give my baby to a Mary I didn’t know. And yet, wouldn’t this be the best role of all time to be cast in?
The logistics of it went like this: I would hide in the shadow of the stable during the first part of the pageant. A secret door would open when the stable lights went low and the baby would be transferred from my arms to Mary’s for the big finish, while I stayed hidden behind. Poof! A baby is born. (If only real birth was that easy!)
I sat behind the stable, waiting our turn. My baby was already dressed in a snowsuit, so the swaddling cloth made this tiny human a large marshmallowy bundle. I gently stroked the small round head, sweet little nose, and beautiful cheeks. I was still reluctant to give my child away even for a short moment, but I reminded myself of the profound purpose. Just then the trap door opened, the baby made a smooth and quick delivery, and Mary was proudly holding my whole world in her arms. Tears filled my eyes, not because I was sad for my empty arms, but because in that moment it became crystal clear. “God…gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves His perfect Son. He chose to give Him up. He chose that because He loves me. He loves us all. The Hallelujah Chorus rang out and echoed off the rocks and bleachers. “King of Kings. Lord of Lords. He shall reign forever and ever.” God’s perfect Son was His perfect Christmas gift to humanity.
The pageant only lasted twenty minutes or so, and soon I was holding my baby again. As I walked home with my child that frosty December night, I marveled that I had a glimpse of what God might have felt on Christmas. That thought, profound and sweet, has deepened my love for Him and His precious Son ever afterward.