Saturday, December 17, 2011

It may seem as though I don't like Christmas

Really, I do like Christmas. Honest I do. I wanted to write a nice, Christmas story to warm the reader's heart, but Bruce Murdock, from Portland's K103 radio station made me veer off the road with a story from Richland, Washington, yesterday. During a living nativity scene in front of the Cathedral of Joy, one of the shepherds burst into flame. They think his robes got too near the campfire and set him alight. While he tumbled down a hill, the three Wiseman tackled him, beating out the flames with their frankincense and myrrh. He was rushed to the local medical center with first and second degree burns to his hands and face.

After a short delay, the show went on.

Bruce Murdock went on to tell about his own Christmas experience back in about 1977. Like me, his house backed up to the woods and he was used to seeing the usual Pacific Northwest wildlife in his yard; raccoons, possums, etc., but as he stood at the kitchen sink, he glanced out of the window and spotted a sheep.

I've never spotted a sheep in my yard. I've had possum, raccoons, rabbits, deer, coyotes, snakes, bobcats and bears, but never have I had a sheep. Apparently he hadn't either.

He noticed it had a collar around its fluffy neck and scooped up his dog's leash, carefully approaching the animal, and slipping the hook onto the ring. He led the walking fleece into the front yard and tied it to the porch railing. Then he dialed 9-1-1.

"Oh, are you near the church?" the police asked.

They had been doing a living nativity at their neighborhood church when something frightened the sheep, causing a stampede out of the manger.

It was probably the flame from the shepherd’s robe.

A coworker told me nativity scenes are really dangerous, even the non-living ones. As a child, in Denmark, his father set up a small scene on his mother's sewing table. His dad had paper colored like stone, with a rough texture, that he'd drape across the table. He then placed Mary and Joseph and the baby, Jesus, into a little manager area made up of moss and rocks, surrounded by sheep and cattle, finally adding the shepherds and Wisemen on the outskirts.

After several years of this, they came home from the midnight service on Christmas Eve and lit the tiny candles to reflect on the coming of the Lord before going to bed. A little spark from the wick drifted down and set the three-year-old-moss on fire and the entire scene when up with a whoosh.

Might be how the shepherd's robes caught fire up in Richland.

Editor's note: Melanie Sherman does not know if it was the three Wiseman who beat out the flames of the shepherd.


  1. Yikes - and I thought it was just the eggnog that was hazardous to my health.

  2. Pam says: Wowie! How did they ever survive the real candles on the tree era?

  3. Carolyn,

    Eggnog is only dangerous if there is too much brandy and you have to drive.


    I've often wondered about how often candles would set trees on fire. Kind of scary.

  4. My mom wants to put up her nativity scene today. I may need to show her this article. Yikes!

  5. Cheryl,

    I'll be thinking of you, poor thing. Just alert the fire department, okay?

  6. Reminds me of the holiday tree lighting event I organized here at work one year, complete with a candle lighting ceremony. I was leaning over to talk with someone and they politely said "Your hair's on fire..." I had long hair then and it was hanging in the candle. Now my hair is quite short. Glad I'm here to tell the tale.

  7. So, what did they say? "Wow, Kathy, this is a great event. It is about time someone organized a nice Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and it looks great. By the way, have I mentioned your hair is on fire?"

    Nice. I'm very glad you are here to tell about it. :)

  8. Jeepers. My daughter Melissa has organized for the past few years the live Nativity scene (utilizing her Youth Group volunteers) for her church - Conyers First United Methodist. I suggested last year that 6-month-old Evan would make a great baby Jesus and she scolded me. Too cold, Mom! Evan's too old this year - he would have to be toddler Jesus. Oh well..I digress.

  9. Karen

    Well, I hope you tell her how dangerous they are. Perhaps she can get fireproof costumes?

    Wish I could attend, though. It would be fun to see her Nativity.


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