If we can't do mangers in the town squares, we could erect a scene of a large red dragon poised menacingly before a woman clothed with the sun, moon, and stars. "She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. . . . [The dragon] stood before the woman . . . so that when she bore her child he might devour it." Our best children's fairy tales are violent, after all (Hansel and Gretel, Snow White), so the kids can take it-as long as it has a happy ending.
The alternate Christmas version from the traditional Lucan one is found in Revelation 12. It is just "the slaughter of the innocents" told from the point of view behind the curtain. It's always good to see things from that perspective now and then. Elisha certainly thought so when he asked God to open his servant's eyes so he could see what the natural eyes cannot: the encircling angelic chariots on the hills (2 Kings 6:17). They are always on those hills.
It is because they are always stationed there, at God's beck and call, that we can be at ease-produce a tablecloth, a loaf of bread, and jug of wine. "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies" (Psalm 23).
"Now there arose war in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated" (Revelation 12:7-8).
Never was there such teeming activity in the heavens as on that "silent night, holy night," when you thought nothing was afoot but a baby boy born in Bethlehem. They told us about the angels singing (Luke 2:13-14); no one told us about their rear guard watching vigilantly behind. Things were about to get hot.
But be sure to tell the kids the happy ending.