As I was driving home from work, today, I passed Thrivent Financial for Lutherans's* Nativity scene (which is set up in their lobby, and visible to the street), and it got me to thinking: Why are the Three Wise Men in the Nativity scene before Christmas?
I mean... When I was growing up, I seem to remember that the whole scene was laid out at the front of the church during Advent - all but the baby Jesus. Because the baby Jesus didn't make his appearance until Midnight Mass.***
So, okay, you don't have the babe in the manger until the 25th because that's when he showed up. (Lucky for all of us that it just happened to be on Christmas.)
But, then, why are the kings always there, already? I mean, you know, if you're paying attention, they didn't show up until Epiphany on January 6th. This is why we have the whole "Twelve Days of Christmas" rigmarole, after all. (Because, apparently, while Mary and Joseph and Jesus were hanging out with the shepherds who had been watching their flocks by night someone went out and started buying fowl in trees and milkmaids and drummerboys and all that stuff. Or maybe that came later.)
Anyway... If people are so particular about not having yon babe show up until the 25th, why do they always put the kings in there before the 6th? I mean, aside from the fact that most people take their Nativity scenes down on the 26th.
'Tis a puzzlement.
For those of you wondering how everyone might have reacted to the gifts those wise men brought, I offer you: Present Face by Garfunkel and Oates.
*Yes, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, if the word has an "s" at the end but is not technically a plural - because "Thrivent Financial for Lutherans" as a phrase is singular - it is supposed to get that terminal s.**
**Yes, I know that getting a "terminal s" sounds painful.
***This is not the same as at home, where the baby Jesus often appeared earlier, but was then stolen by a cat, or had the cradle flipped over on his head so that it looked like he was wearing an oversized football helmet.