Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story: The Incessant, Disturbing Arrival of God



A Christmas story:

Friday last, Steve and I go shopping. He buys I know not what, insisting I remain in the car, so I assume with not a little self-regard that it's a gift for me. He returns, puts the package into the back of the car (we have one of those hatchback arrangements rather than a trunk or boot proper), and we proceed to drive off.

As we do so, we pass a young man standing in the parking lot, talking on a cell phone. Steve says, "Look at this doofus," and I do. And I laugh. The young fellow looks not unlike the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, hat too small for his head tamping down sprigs of hair refusing to be tamped, so that they stick out every way from Sunday around the brim of his hat. 

He has on large, outr√© sunglasses with ridiculous white frames that, for all I know, being immune to  style, may be quite stylish--and so I may well be the doofus and he the prince of current couture. 

We laugh and drive on, and then this happens. The scarecrow comes running after us, shouting and banging on the car. He reaches Steve's window and says, "Sir, your back door's not shut and your package may fall out. May I close it for you?"

Steve turns and looks to the back of the car, and the young man is absolutely right. Steve says sheepishly, "Of course. Please close it. And thanks for letting us know."

We drive away then, feeling about two inches tall. Steve says, "That was a lesson to us, wasn't it?"

This is a parable. It's one of those uncomfortable parabolic interchanges--one of those uncomfortable upendings of our certainties and expectations--that happen all too frequently and all too unexpectedly in each of our lives on an ongoing basis. Parables have the potential to happen anytime we walk outside our front doors, certain that the world revolves around us and that our rules writ large would be such a nifty prescription for the entire universe, if the universe might only muster up sense and decency enough to abide by said rules.

Life is parabolic, if we but have ears to hear and eyes to see. Just when we're convinced we're made of stuff finer than common clay, it has a way of sticking the commonest of clay to the soles of our shoes,  the tops of our heads, and the ends of our noses to remind us precisely who and what we are.

There is not a day we step outside our front door, there is not a highway or byway into which we can set our feet, that we don't encounter God. But to benefit from those encounters, we have to be prepared to recognize that God arrives among us in every shape, form, and fashion imaginable--and in some shapes, forms, and fashions we've hardly begun to imagine.

He arrives as a scarecrow of a young man in dark spectacles framed in bedazzling white, hair akimbo around his face. She comes as a young, unmarried woman seeking room in our cozy, respectable inn, a place to give birth to her bastard child--a young woman who contravenes all the rules we decent folks have written to order the cosmos, which would result in such peace and plenty everywhere if only the rest of the world had the good sense to follow them.

God arrives. Daily. On every road into which we step.

The problem's not the arrival, or the incarnation. It's our pinched hearts and our inability to see and be grateful for what's right in front of our noses.

That's my story this Christmas day in the morning. And I'm sticking to it.

Season's greetings to each of you!

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