Sunday, December 11, 2016

lambs in distress

Those rattling chains you hear accompany the appearance of the spirit of Christmas past.

A flock of nativity characters have invaded the Melaque Plaza in the hope of kicking up the yuletide cheer. Even though you would think the tree that has been mounted on the top of the gazebo would far more fit Gandalf's noggin than be evocative of a German pagan holiday symbol.

Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I suppose it was in the top five or six when I was four. But, I now see it as a season to be endured.

Don't get me wrong. I play along with all of the celebration. I am no Grinch. And this will be the first time in I-don't-know-long that our family will be in the same place on Christmas Day.

What I do enjoy is the eclectic nature of Mexican nativity scenes. Dinosaurs are not an unusual appearance at the manager. And why not? This is the season where everyone is free to come and adore the baby Jesus. Even a tyrannosaurus rex.

I didn't see any dinosaurs in the Melaque plaza when I visited last week. Even though one or two might have been skulking about.

What was there was fun enough. And quite symbolic. I do not know who provided the theology for the creche, but its subtext is not hidden very deeply.

The religious significance of Christmas is the birth of Jesus, the pre-existing Son of God as a human. Ensconced in that doctrine of incarnation is the message of hope -- the setting right of a creation that had gone wrong.

And where there is hope, there is also evil. And that little Hegelian passion play romps through the plaza these days.

Take these demons. 

Cleverly portrayed as fallen angels, they threaten the lambs under the care of the shepherd.

Nothing subtle about the symbolism there. The shepherds, the lowest class in Judean society, came to adore the birth of Jesus. Jesus, in turn, often styled himself a shepherd to his flock. The flock. That's us.

At first, I thought this innocent maiden was ignoring the demon at her back.

Then, I realized she was looking down with sad disdain at a toking demon at her feet. Nativities can be quite topical. This one sends a timely message to locals and tourists alike.

Our lady of the furrowed brow is not the only woman represented in the plaza. There is also a shepherdess busy at her work.

Christmas is a great time to remember that women were an important part of the early church -- something the Catholic church and many evangelical denominations seem to have forgotten.

What the creators of the plaza scene did not forget, though, is a representation of the wise men. 

There are three in the plaza. That, of course, is the popular view, though we have no idea how many there were. It is a fact the Bible does not include. The number three was simply made up because that is how many gifts were brought, and who would show up at a birthday party without his own gift to offer?

The three gentile kings have much more significance in Latin culture than in Northern European Christmas lore. 6 January is the feast of Epiphany throughout Christendom. But, here in Mexico (and other Latin countries), it is also Three King's Day.

That is the day children receive their gifts -- just as Jesus received the gifts of the unnumbered and unnamed wise men. Even though I understand that many Mexican families now exchange the lion's share of their gifts on Christmas.

There is a lot of symbolism and history packed into the Melaque plaza. I took my photographs in daylight because I wanted to focus on the figures. But, at night, it is spectacularly lit.

And if any of us lambs start wandering astray, there are demons aplenty to egg us on until the shepherd brings us home.

No comments: