“Hey, it’s your fav D.J., here to remind you to stop by the winter festival in Vander Park. Rumor has it that ol’ St. Nick and his reindeer have made a pit stop,” the radio crackled.
Becka piped up. “Winter festival?” “Daddy, why don’t they call it Christmas?” She asked earnestly. James looked over at his wife, Celia, for help.
“Sometimes people are afraid of making someone feel uncomfortable if they don’t believe the same way,” she explained.
Samuel, almost twelve, spoke up matter of factly. “Not everyone believes in Santa but they let him in,” he pointed to across the park, where a rotund white bearded fellow sat in a sleigh. “Santa," exclaimed Ruthie, who at three was full of wonder.
“Well” James began, “they can try to take out the true meaning of Christmas but they can’t take it from the heart.”
“I still wish you were made mayor instead of that other man.” Becka exclaimed. Samuel rolled his eyes not knowing where this was going. “So do I, but daddy’s getting over it and we can still have a voice.” James reassured their children.
Celia kissed her husband’s cheek. It had been a rough year for them as he ran for office. They were so disappointed at the outcome weeks ago when Donovan Bainbridge won. A man of few principles he only cared about public image and what deemed to be politically correct.
James and Celia escorted their brood through the park to join the other school children for rehearsal as Ruthie clung to her doll. Samuel and Becka, tucked in the mass of vocalists, chanted along.
I wonder really what kind of a guide that reindeer would be? James mused to himself as “Rudolph” was belted out eagerly. One glowing nose couldn’t possibly light the way through fog and adversity.
Parents lifted their youngsters on weary shoulders to view the floats and colorfully dressed holiday characters who passed by, as he looked around. James had witnessed many city celebrations during this time of year but there was something missing. His eyes scanned the park to find the nativity, that for decades had been the hub for all of the Christmas festivities.
A few times it was in need of repair as it stood through torrent winds and rain. Even a new backdrop was built, but now it was no where in sight.
James remembered when he first knelt by the wooden holy family, in awe of the realistically painted kings and shepherds. That night local farmers had brought livestock to be a part of the display.
There he silently prayed, and among the timber faced nativity and a star filled night the Savior found a place in a young boy’s heart.
“Daddy, where’s baby Jesus?” a familiar child’s voice interrupted his thoughts. It was Ruthie.
Before her father could reply Ruthie squealed in delight. “See, the lambs and cows are looking for him too.” She had spotted a few children who were leading animals towards the petting zoo.
“Go ahead honey,” James nodded as Celia grasped their little one’s hand. “I’ll be along,” James spotted Bainbridge, who conversed with a few of the city officials, his artificial smile curved up like the synthetic tree branches that bounced along on the floats.
“Hey, come to wish me well?” the mayor jeered. “Yes,” James surprised him, “and to check out the Christmas celebration,” he smiled.
Bainbridge coughed and grinned nervously, referring to the banner that swung above their heads. “You mean winter festival.” James ignored him.
“So, what happened to the nativity?” he inquired. Bainbridge snickered, “Ebay,” James stood in disbelief. “But we did keep the manger, I mean trough, for the petting zoo animals.”
James slowly reunited with his family, as the afternoon wore on into the evening, where a star lit sky shone above. Ruthie began to croon to her doll, which lay in the manger. Samuel and Becka knelt by her, each with an animal tucked under an arm, and soon a handful of parents and children gathered together, singing, "Silent Night" in unison.
The wind picked up momentarily as the banner fell to the ground. It was as if heaven itself had spoken, without a word.
Celia and James looked over at their children and smiled. This night they would raise their voice and be heard.
James wasn't so sure what would happen tomorrow. Bainbridge was hurrying over, his face red, almost matching Rudolph’s nose.
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