By John Rice
It's Christmas Eve and the front lawn of a Forest Park home is populated by an odd combination of characters. Standing in the snow are Santa, Rudolph and Frosty, while the holy family huddles in a nearby crèche.
Cows, sheep and a donkey stand watch over the newborn in the manger, and Mary gazes down at him with tenderness. Joseph is by her side and shepherds stand in awe. Next to these poor men, three kings sit astride camels, holding expensive gifts.
As fresh snow starts to fall, these characters come to life. Frosty was the liveliest. He danced and sang, startling the young shepherd boy, who was cradling a lamb. Frosty was delighted to have children around him.
Rudolph was also in a great mood. The stable reminded him of the shed where he was born and he was proud that he had risen from such bleak surroundings to become a key leader. He had been through so much, being bullied by the other reindeer, who teased him for his red nose. He knew this was his special gift and was grateful for its glow.
Santa was jolly, as always, knowing that the gifts he carried would bring hope and happiness to the world. He also knew that his gift-giving would encourage others to be generous.
Joseph was dismayed by the demonstration and Mary worried they would wake her son. But Jesus slept contentedly; even the cattle did not disturb him. The kings on their camels looked down in disapproval. Rudolph didn't care for that.
"So what if we act silly. We're not afraid to be different. After what I've been through, I'll never look down on someone for being different."
One of the kings felt ashamed.
"You're so right. When we return to the East, people will see that we're not the same. That this journey has changed us forever and we'll never be content with the old ways. We must find the courage to face this criticism."
"Hey guys," the shepherd spoke up, "If you think you're outcasts, try watching sheep. We're dirty and cold and sleep under the stars. We are paid next to nothing and the people of the village shun us. Yet, look at us now, we are standing in the company of kings and watching the miracle of new life. I've never felt prouder to be a shepherd."
Being a simple carpenter, Joseph felt a kinship with the shepherd.
"I also work long hours and don't have much to show for it. The government forced me to drag my pregnant wife all the way to this godforsaken place. A husband is supposed to be a good provider. It hurts that I couldn't find my family a proper shelter and to see my son lying where the animals eat."
Mary had been quiet but couldn't contain her pain.
"None of you men can know what it feels like to be an unwed mother. I am surrounded by gossip and accusing eyes. I will never be accepted by society, but I don't care. This is the happiest night of my life and I wouldn't trade this place for a palace."
Santa beamed as he spoke.
"Rudolph, you have been my light but just think, even this baby can bring his light to the world. All of us here, we must let our light shine! The world may be a dark place but, in this village, there is light that shines inside the people throughout the year. Merry Christmas!"
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com