Almost nothing at Christmas in our culture falls under the spell of “all is calm.” We do better on “all is bright“, as in blinking bright lights, sparkling bright decorations and packages but especially, bright red eyes from sleep deprivation.
For sure there was nothing calm about our sprint to the Christmas Eve service at Saint John’s two nights ago. Looking around, it looked like more than our family flopped into place exhausted, still running mental errands and checking off lists. Most of us dropped into a pew, grateful for any excuse to simply sit.
Settle. Breathe in calm. Let Christmas come. Too soon it’s over, like childhood, like 51 plus years of marriage. Let Christmas come. Christ come. Stay.
Just before the organ music cued us to stand, a woman squeezed into the pew beside me. She looked around like she was trying to see if there’d be room for another person so I asked, “Would you like us to squeeze together? We could make room for one more.” She said, “No, thanks. My husband’s deaf as a post so this won’t matter to him.” I wondered. As the first notes sounded forth from the organ, I turned to watch for two grandsons as the choir processed slowly down the center aisle.
Basil looked slightly angelic, coming down the aisle in his long red choir robe. His white blonde hair, almost halo-like, contrasted with the dirty sneakers peeking out from his robe, a reminder that under it all was a five year old doing his best at singing ,”O Come All Ye Faithful.” Luke, age twelve, wrapped up the tall end of the children’s choir. I wondered if he’d still want to sing in the choir next year.
One look at Basil and my mind rewound to the day before when I noticed the Fisher Price plastic nativity set all but flattened on a kid friendly shelf in the living room. Jud and I’d bought the set for Lily more than thirteen years ago. We figured it could survive childhood and not be fussed over like porcelain figurines. It survived many moves and much handling by the Grands and their friends. This year, Tia their dog, took a special liking to the three kings and every now and then would trot off with a small king clamped between her teeth, intent on burying one or more in some cushion, like a treasure, which they are.
After awhile I asked Basil, “What happened to the Nativity, Bazy? It looks like a disaster struck. The only ones still standing are one king holding the chest of gold, some animals and baby Jesus in the manger. ”
“Well, Momo. The shepherds and everybody decided they wanted the gold that’s in the box so the king attacked them and took them all out except for Jesus and the animals.”
Stunned at seeing the nativity like something on the nightly news, I bit my tongue and waited a few hours before resuming the conversation with Basil.
“So, Basil, I never heard this story before about what happened to the nativity. Did you read it or hear it somewhere?”
“Yup, it’s in the Bible.”
Well, I thought, he’s not the first one to twist the Bible to support his position.
Then I asked, what I thought was the clincher, “So, what do you think Jesus was thinking while this was going on?”
He walked over to the disheveled nativity and returned with baby Jesus in the manger. Jesus wore that sweet painted on smile often seen on mass produced toys.
Basil turned it towards me, triumphant at having bested his grandmother and said,”Look, He’s happy.”
I scooped him up and said, ” Well, I know one thing for sure about all of this. Jesus is so happy when he sees you, Basil. He doesn’t like fighting, especially over stuff like gold, but he loves you and your creative mind.”
Later we watched The little Drummer Boy and talked about the greed and love of gold that has motivated people to do cruel things to each other. Hate hurts.
Basil, as he often does, set me to thinking. This time I pondered the battle ground that pulsed like an impending earthquake under that Bethlehem stable. It didn’t take long for Herod to try to “take out” this Baby-sized threat, which sent Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing, like refugees, to Egypt. Even today wars, religious extremists and greed still send refugees scurrying for hiding places all over this world that Jesus loves. And we keep finding new ways to say, “No Room.”
The plastic nativity scene’s been set right. I wish it were that simple with the rest of the world. Basil’s got one thing right, One day, when the battle’s over, ONE KING will still be standing but it won’t be one holding a chest of gold. It will be King Jesus gathering up His much loved treasure, you and me.
In the end, LOVE not hate WINS and LOVE always has room for one more.
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