Scene & Herd - Putting the Christ back into Christmas

Despite the coordinated scheming of liberals, Democrats, atheists, college professors, urban elites, secular humanists, the New York Times, homosexuals, the ACLU, Volvo owners, George Soros and Barbra Streisand, it still appears that Christmas will go ahead as scheduled this year.</
Among the handful of celebrations of the birth of Jesus to survive the assaults of the godless, hateful left was last weekend's Walk Through Bethlehem at the Simpsonwood United Methodist Church in Norcross.</
Walk Through Bethlehem was more than your usual Jesus, Mary and Joseph-in-the-manger nativity scene. The congregants of Simpsonwood United Methodist went all out and built an entire mini-Bethlehem.</
It is great. I swear to gosh, I'm not being sarcastic. It is really, really great. It is a warm, welcoming, playful event that evokes both the meaning and spirit of Christmas.</
Simpsonwood's Bethlehem is built on a gently downward-sloped field on the church's wooded property. To enter it via a candle-lined path, you have to pass through a "Town Gate" staffed by a "census taker" and teens dressed as Roman soldiers. Dressed in Bible movie-type clothes, the census taker looks you in the eye and asks, "How many in your tribe this night?" Upon answering, he hands you a map of the event and welcomes you inside the town.

Bethlehem-in-Norcross' commercial district is about one block long. The "street" is lined on both sides with businesses housed in canvas, candlelit tents. There is a money changer, a winery, an incense shop, a fur shop and even a little "grocery" store "selling" fruit and nuts. Each shop is staffed by adults and children dressed in period garb. The child who "works" at the town's Hebrew School handed out miniature scrolls printed with the Hebrew alphabet. The incense booth is staffed by an older, accented man who explained where frankincense and myrrh come from.</
Best of all are some of the names of the shops. The town's hotel (no vacancies, of course) is called the King David Inn. The town's bakery, complete with costumed children kneading dough, is called Manna Mania. The town's clothing store? Lord & Tailor.

Between the town's commercial strip and its livestock pen is a fire where a costumed man tells small children the story of Christmas. "This was the night the savior was to be born," explained the storyteller to one small child. "Cool!" replied the child.</
Past the livestock pen is a manger. A woman with a small sound system stands next to it and reads aloud the story of how Jesus was born and how the Three Wisemen called to offer gifts. The Three Wisemen essentially do slow laps around the town, timing their walk to show up at the manger just as the reader gets to that part of the story. They are joined by various children, who give baby Jesus some of the frankincense and myrrh that they picked up while walking through the town.

After the manger, the path leads you back up the slope to a picnic area where hot chocolate is served. I don't think that part was from the Bible, though.</
Incidentally, the town map has a schedule of the church's special events for the remainder of the month. They're listed under the heading "Holiday Events." Someone alert Bill O'Reilly!</
Finish him: As you are no doubt unaware, Tony Young All-Star Karate Academy's 2005 Year End National Karate Championship was last weekend at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. I stopped by for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to check out the action.</
I walked in just after noon. Most of the competitors came from suburban martial arts studios. I know that because they wore T-shirts identifying their schools. There was Cathedral Tae Kwon Do Academy (motto: "Warriors for Christ"). Its logo was of two giant men doing kicks next to a gothic cathedral. There was Christian Karate Academy. Its logo was of a man kicking, captioned by a verse from Hebrews. There was Ross Brothers Tae Kwon Do. Its shirts made up for logo-lessness with the puzzling motto, "If You Scared, Say You Scared." OK, then.

My favorite matches were the ones with the 8- and 9-year-olds. When they fought, they all put on serious eye-of-the-tigerish expressions. It was super cute. The kids impressively executed the forms, but since they were all so small, they couldn't really do much damage to one another.</
For the serious, get-your-blood-pumping fight action, you had to go over and watch the 16- and 17-year-olds. They were aggressive, kick-happy, and so fast that their momentum would frequently carry them out of the ring. I saw one match end when the fighters flew out of the ring and into a table.</
Coffee talk: Southwest Atlanta's Capitol View neighborhood finally has a gathering place. It's called Capitol Coffee and it's attached to the new Couer D'Allene Studios loft complex on Allene Avenue, just feet from where the Beltline will be, assuming it's ever built.</
On Sunday, the coffee shop had a grand opening party. Music was provided by Jade Hollow, Ryan Sharp, and the coffee shop's own Troy Bronsink. Refreshments were provided by, you guessed it, the coffee shop. The day's profits went to the Sullivan Center, a vocational training and homeless prevention center on Capitol View's main drag, Dill Avenue.</
The Other Center For Puppetry Arts: Screw the Nutcracker. My Atlanta Christmas tradition is the Chick and Boozy holiday variety show at Dad's Garage, now in its ninth year (the show, not the theater). I stopped by last Saturday.</
This year's show, Chick & Boozy: It's a Hoo-Haw Christmas, sees washed-up action star Chick Starley (played by Chris Blair), and his alcoholic blue imp sidekick Boozy (played by Lucky Yates) returning to Chick's hometown after decades away. I've seen four C&B shows and Saturday's was the funniest yet. Among the highlights are the Cobb County-mocking call-and-response song "Put a Sticker on It," a bizarre, bestial dance scene courtesy of the Dames Aflame burlesque troupe, and the show's traditional spoofing of "Match Game," this year featuring a guest appearance by Michael Vick's possibly herpetic alter ego, Ron Mexico.</
For more of Andisheh's outings, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.

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