The theme for this year’s Ward Christmas Party was “A Night In Bethlehem,” and they asked us to come in costumes, if possible. There was a wide variety of bathrobe shepherds and all kinds of bathtowel turbans, and the whole evening centered around the reading and play-acting of The Nativity. It was a wonderful evening. We ate, we talked with friends, we sang Christmas hymns (the ones about Jesus — not the ones about snow), and basically had a great time while not forgetting for a moment whose holy day we were preparing for.
I got to be a tax collector. Before people could file into the gymnasium (which was VERY extensively decorated to look like a marketplace in Judea — complete with hebrew text on the signs) they had to be taxed. The tax was canned food, to be donated to the Utah Food Bank. I collected the donations, and then handed out plastic coins to be exchanged for the meal and the activities. I had a large surplus of currency which I blatantly used, in true tax-collector form, to buy some extra meal goodies for my family. There was plenty of food left at the end of the evening, and everybody got seconds or thirds, so it’s not like my obvious embezzlement caused any shortages — it was just fun to get into the character, and to always have lots of little gold-plastic coins on my person when everybody else had run out.
And role-playing or no, I wept during the Nativity. It wasn’t especially well-acted, and the singing was congregational unison rather than anything with actual harmony to it, but that’s not what makes for a good Nativity play. For me, I just have to be reminded of the gift of the Atonement, and of the miracle of forgiveness. Even a thieving, embezzling tax-collector can repent and find salvation.
Last year I ranted angrily about how the Ward had put on a “Polar Express” party for the kids, with no mention of Christ at all. I voiced my complaints quietly to the Bishop a year ago, and maybe that’s why this year’s theme was so much more in line with the true meaning of Christmas. But at the party this year I was too uplifted to bother feeling vindicated. There’s no room for an “in your face” attitude when you’re surrounded by reminders of God’s forgiveness.
As an added bonus, we came home with half a box of oranges and a dozen apples. We’re not hurting for food (I just bought 4lbs of bananas this afternoon), but the kids will really appreciate some more fresh fruit. Oh, and I let my kids raid the tax-collector’s table. We’ve got fifty or sixty of these plastic gold coins now… “tackses,” Gleek calls them, overarticulating the “X.” Ah, the currency games they’ll be playing tomorrow.