The weather is always cooperative for plastic baby Jesus, and the real-life Magi with accompanying farm animals—for some inexplicable reason, always registering in the mid-fifty temperature range.

Once again, as is our yearly tradition, our family is observing the live nativity that is always constructed on the front lawn of a nearby neighborhood church, in close proximity of the commuter train line that I ride into work everyday. Of course, we are each sporting lightweight clothing or short-sleeved shirts; last year we wore shorts!

Christmas is a Big Deal in our home, and we place a heavier weight on the traditions of a faith-based Christmas than those of a Santa Claus Is Coming to Town holiday. The true meaning of Christmas, from our collective perspective, is the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s what we are celebrating in three days, not the arrival of some mythical fat man in a red suit.

As we see thousands of public and private Christmas trees and nativity displays around the country, they remind us again of the powerful American value built into our Constitution: our freedom of religion ~ James Lankford

My kids seems to gravitate toward the live animals, reaching their arms over the railing or poking their fingers between the fencing. A few days earlier, we drove by another live nativity that hosted a live camel which was a complete mind-trip and unique experience as well, although I already had a photo for that day. I survey the animals before me now; personally, I don’t trust the donkey.

Filtered lighting—the type you would use to illuminate your workshop or garage, minus the gel filter—splashes warm light on the scene. The actors squint from time to time, can they even see us staring at them? I’m hoping the answer is a resounding no, because I am taking more photos than usual this year. With several exposures captured, I’m certain that one of them is sufficient for today’s story. And just then, I hear the familiar sound of a rumbling trolley line. I pause, anticipate the approaching train, track it moving from left to right, and create two more images, before it passes out of sight.

How potentially humorous, at least for me: a scenario where the wisemen trek down to the train station, wait on the platform with tickets in hand; the attendant makes smalltalk, “where are you three off to, dressed to the nines, carrying your gifts?”; to which they reply, “it is fairly obvious with the donkey and calf and goats, we’re taking the Blue Train down to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus, of course!”