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my happy mistake


it's the middle of january.  red and green have been packed away in boxes and replaced by january white or even the pink hearts of saint valentine.  just this weekend we finished the epic efforts required to put away the christmas decorations (i'm thinking of hiring a moving company to do this next year...there are that many boxes), but i had previously de-christmased my office back at the end of december, getting ready for the new year.  i have several nativity scenes which get placed around my office during december, so i wrapped up all the wise men in white tissue paper, and made sure the sheep were properly packed away, joining joseph, mary, and the tiny newborn Jesus and the rest of the ensemble in a cardboard and newspaper hibernation, until next year.

at least that was the plan.

but a couple of days ago, as i was doing office-ish things in my office, i noticed something that i had missed.  peering out at me from under the light of my lamp were the holy plastic parents, with their motionless mangered messiah lying quietly.  just outside the inner circle was the rest of the cast - the standing shepherd, shouldering a lamb, the trio of travelers from the east, and an assortment of animals.  i somehow forgot the whole thing.

christmas has now gone.  heck, epiphany is even in the rear view mirror at this point.  but this one visual vestige remains.  my first reaction upon seeing it was a blend of surprise that i somehow overlooked the whole colorful menagerie, along with exasperation that i was going to have to retrieve a box that's been labelled, taped, and packed away for the year.  but the annoyance quickly faded into a realization of truth: though it is packed away, christmas hasn't really gone anywhere.

at least it shouldn't have.  the illogic of incarnation - that God-of-all should choose helplessness, diaper rash, smelly fisherman, and (most of all) love - should still shock my system, lest i too quickly move onto other things.

maybe the nativity needs to stay out this year.  perhaps as i'm preparing my annual statistical reports for the denomination, i need to glance up and get a glimpse of Emmanuel - God with us.  maybe as i'm maneuvering my way through meetings, i need to be reminded of the magnificent light who has shone in the darkness.

and so i am pleased with my happy mistake.  i am keeping one eye on the creche, a perpetual view of my only hope, my guiding purpose, a love so amazing, so divine, so life-giving, so shocking, so uncontainable.  may my forgotten nativity continue to shake me with its ridiculous claims throughout the year, because, truth be told, everyday is incarnation day.  if only i will notice.

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