I hate to be dramatic, but I’m pretty sure that shower tried to murder me.
It didn’t look that scary from the outside. It was pastel tiled and simply designed. The family who owned it had invited me to live with them for a few weeks while I studied Spanish in Costa Rica during college. They had a modest house outside of San Jose and all was perfectly peaceful until the first morning I took a shower.
In this section of Costa Rica, and perhaps other parts of Latin America, they did not have hot water heaters. In order to get warm water, you had to first turn on the metal showerhead. Then, once the water was on, you flipped a big breaker box that sparked and hissed, sending an electrical current into the pipe, thus warming the water.
This act broke every rule of electricity I had ever learned in shop class as a young lad. Let’s go over the process once more:
1. Get naked.
2. Turn on water.
3. Stand wet in growing puddle on a tile floor.
4. Flip a death row sized breaker switch.
5. Watch sparks fly.
As scary as playing around with electricity while naked and wet was, it was nothing compared to the pain of messing up the steps. Some mornings, I was so tired that I switched steps 4 and 2. I’d turn on the power first and then turn on the water. When you did that, you sent a powerful electrical current through the showerhead and then touched it in order to turn on the water. I never fell down from the shock, but I definitely saw stars.
After weeks of shock and awe, I remember how happy I felt when we stayed somewhere that had a hot water heater. It was just a rundown hotel, but it felt 5 star, because death by execution wasn’t awaiting me in the bathroom. But as nice as I remember that place being, it’s nothing compared to how nice we all like to remember the manger where Christ was born on Christmas.
Have you ever seen paintings of the manger from that fateful night? It looks like Martha Stewart got there a few days before Joseph and Mary arrived. You can almost see her spreading about a winter spice mix she got from Whole Foods to make the air smell all “tingly” and perhaps finding sprigs of Mediterranean evergreens to hang alongside cypress wreathes. Mmmmmm, manger.
And with live nativity scenes being formed at churches across the world last week, I thought it might be a good time for us to put the “mange” back in manger. Here are 3 ways we can:
1. Hire less agreeable animals
Most manger scenes I’ve seen have donkeys that look like they want to have a cup of hot cocoa with you and maybe read you “Goodnight Moon” before they tuck you into bed after a long winter’s night. Donkeys, however, are jerks. They love to kick, bite and then kick you again if you make additional eye contact with them. Step one in fixing our manger scenes is to hire some jerk animals.
2. Get more spiders.
Every barn or manger I’ve ever been at has been like some sort of gangsta’s paradise for spiders. You can’t take two steps in them without walking through a massive spider web and feeling like you’re about to get attacked like the scientist in the movie Arachnophobia. You want to make your manger more authentic? Two words – “Buckets o’ Spiders.”
3. Get less supple hay.
I’m not sure what the thread count is on the hay baby Jesus was laying on the manger scenes I’ve seen, but it looks delightful. Perhaps Egyptian? Hard to say. But real hay is horrible. It’s pokey, it’s sharp and it’s constantly trying to stab you in the neck. Get a bale of hay from a farm down the street from your church, not costume hay. And it’s probably going to be chock full of spiders, so…bonus.
Perhaps with the over commercialization of Christmas and the rampant consumerism, we’ve got bigger issues to be considered about. But I do think a dirty manger is part of the story. It’s part of the wild, untamable wonderfulness of that night. That into the muck and mess of this world, a perfect savior was born to rescue us.
And please know that if I visit your church and your donkey doesn’t try to at least kidney punch me once when I’m not looking, I am going to be very disappointed.