Monday, December 14, 2009


This year, at my daughters' choir concert, I watched little 6-year-olds march into the church in their adorable sheep and shepherd outfits. Three teenagers carried in gifts, wearing splendid robes, like choir boys carrying the sacred items to the altar.

We know that celebrations of the nativity like this are not meant to be representations of the actual event. I started wondering...what would an American equivalent be? Joseph and Mary, good, church-attending kids, who got pregnant out of wedlock. Heads shake, because although we hope they do better, we know that so often church kids look just like the world. They drive an Aerostar, handed down in the family, to Kansas City, because Joseph hears they are hiring there, and he desperately needs a job. They don't have enough money for a hotel, and they are run out of several parking lots for vagrancy. One shop owner, locking up for the night, tells them to park behind his rental house, which hasn't been leased yet. He can't let them stay in the house, but they can sleep in their van in the driveway without fear of being run off.

In that van, in that borrowed driveway, Mary gives birth to the Savior of the world, whose head is cone-shaped, and he snorts a lot. We don't know His apgar score; they clean Him up as best they can and wrap Him in a blanket that Joseph's mom had bought for them, a beautiful new one, blue because Mary was just "sure" it would be a boy. The Savior, helpless in their arms. He's too tired to nurse, so they cuddle up as best as they can to try to sleep.

In a bar not too many streets over, some Hispanic landscape workers have stopped to have a beer before heading home. They are laughing and telling stories, the only people there except the owner and a waitress, when suddenly a brilliant light appears from the wall. A form appears in the light and speaks to them: do not be afraid, there is good news. The angel gives them an address, tells them they will find a baby newly born in an Aerostar van, and then suddenly the inside of the bar is bathed in light and angels everywhere, on every wall, across the ceiling, as if the roof has been lifted off and transported them all to heaven, giving glory to God Almighty...and then it stops. It's just a bar again. The men are stunned. They leave their drinks, their expensive equipment and run the few blocks to the place where the angels told them they would find a child. Sure enough! The beautiful blue blanket, the tiny, impoverished family, somehow just like them. The men marvel at the angel's accurate words. What a visitation! What could this mean! They tell everyone they meet, but no one understands it. The media won't even pick up the story, because it's just a group of Hispanics with a wild tale (from a bar, no less). The owner of the bar buys a picture of an angel to hang on the wall; they will never forget this night in this one run-down watering hole. This is the first place Jesus is exalted, God's choice of a church service.

Joseph does find work as a welder (his trade), and they rent a small house, and the baby grows. Mary gets a job at a fabric shop and Jesus stays with a woman next door who takes in a few neighbor kids. She's not registered with DHS, but they trust her, and she is very fond of their child. One day when Mary stops to pick up Jesus after getting off work, she finds three men in business suits talking with Jesus' caretaker. They were wanting to know if this was indeed Jesus BarJoseph, born on such and such date. Mary is puzzled and a little hesitant to answer their questions, but God somehow eases her heart, that it is safe to say yes. They have been searching for this child. The white-haired man who seems to be in charge introduces himself as Warren Buffett. Mary does not know who he is, but he says that he has been waiting for this child, and he would like to be a silent benefactor. He has set up a trust fund for the child, to provide private schooling, an allowance for necessary living expenses, and a college education. He would like to finance any venture that the child chooses when He is grown...could they sit and talk? Mr. Buffett has brought his lawyer and accountant. He assures Mary that he wants nothing in return; it is a blessing simply to silently provide what he can. Mary marvels at this. She remembers the immigrant workers who came when Jesus was born, and she stores these things in her heart. Her son will now be able to go to a good school, have decent clothes. How good of God to provide, even before the child is in preschool.

Because Mary and Joseph are not wealthy, the neighborhood where they live is a little rough. They are sometimes harassed for being Middle Eastern. When Jesus is about two, a very bad character begins asserting influence. He is an Asian gang member, recently moved to Kansas City from Los Angeles, and he has some ideas about what should be happening in their corner of the world. As his influence grows, their neighborhood becomes very frightening, and they often find themselves under attack by this new gang. One night, warned in a dream, Joseph is instructed to take their son and flee to Arkansas...

Wouldn't it be fun to set up a nativity with a tiny model Aeorstar, three figures stuffed inside, Hispanic workers running towards it, sometimes modeled with a weedeater in hand, to show their trade. A figure of Warren Buffet and two other men in suits standing to the side, with briefcases. Our version has a limo that these businessmen arrived in, and there is a stray dog cocking his head and looking in the van, curious like everyone else.

Merry Christmas.