Monday, December 24, 2012

What if Jesus were born today?

Woman:   What if... Jesus were born in Canada today?  And ... if Jesus was born in our day and age, would Jesus even be male?
To be true to the story, the Christ child would most certainly be born an indigenous native Canadian. In fact, like Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ child today would probably be born into a tribe out on the fringe of the Empire. The Holy Family would most likely live within a day’s travel of the capital – say within the flight distance of a small airplane - putting them perhaps in a community in Northern Quebec?
MAN:  It’s been seven generations since the people have drifted from their traditional ways. Slowly over time, they lost their trust in the land as the source of security. Slowly they began to depend upon the machines and tinned foods and the coin and cash of the Empire that eventually invaded every aspect of their lives.
The young couple in our story, Mary and Joe, remember the stories their grandparents told them. They remember trips stolen away from school where they were shown how to negotiate the waters, get what was needed from the land, use everything to good purpose, watch the stars, the birds, the animal tracks – the signs that would tell them where they were, when they were, who they were. Sometimes they could even remember parts of the songs their grandparents sang.
So the legend goes - seven generations is the time for renewal, for rebirth, for hope – when ancient ways become new again. When a new path is found that will lead the people – Anishnabe – for seven generations still to come.

The Story:  This is Mary and Joe’s story
Woman:  Mary was several months pregnant when the government orders came through for evacuation. The government had constructed a power damn and the flooding was soon to begin. Their town would soon be deep under water.
They had protested and fought against it in courts. They’d prayed against it for years. They resisted - and held out – they’d even stayed behind while others gave up and left – hoping the courts would put a stop to the damn.

MAN:  But when Mary was just about due to deliver - Joseph had a dream. A strange visitor in his dream told him to take Mary and leave town - told him that the journey they were about to begin would be a great unwinding of the circle - starting small and reaching far beyond any horizons he could imagine. He would name his son “Singer of old Songs”.

Woman:  Mary was also visited. In her vision, she got the message that the baby she was carrying belonged to the past, and belonged to the future. She was told she would know the suffering of her people through the birth and death of this child.  But with this bad news came also a strange and powerful joy that didn’t let her worry but provided an incredible, calm, trust in what was to come.

MAN:  So, Mary and Joe boarded the Airplane and headed south, leaving behind all they had known, to create a new home with the others. The weather was supposed to be clear. But the storms had become more and more unpredictable with every passing year.

Woman:    Before they’d been in the air an hour, the pilot had announced that they were in for some rough riding. Mary began to worry that the jumps and jerks might bring her labour on. But one look at Joseph’s strained face changed that. She’d let him do the worrying. She’d be strong and calm – claiming the gift the visitor in her vision had offered.

MAN:  It got a lot worse before it got better. And it only got better when the pilot gave up and decided to land at the power dam construction site. He knew there’d be empty barracks there for his passengers. He’d flown the crew out for the holidays just days before.
There was still a skeleton crew left behind to run the place. They’d stayed for the double overtime pay – to keep the heat on and fuel in the machines – keep them running so the whole place wouldn’t freeze solid.
Once they’d landed and carried their bags from the airplane, the Shift Boss met the travelers in the mess hall and assigned them barracks. The cooks got busy putting on coffee and chili and sandwiches.

Woman:   And then the Boss got a look at Mary -  her labour pains had started – and he saw Joseph’s face.  So, the Boss went into action - he got the dishwashers to go clear some space in the food storage shed.
It was the cleanest place in the camp – and there was room because supplies were low. Only trouble was – the camp nurse and company doctor had left on the last flight out. He apologized to the couple and showed them to their digs. Maybe the baby would wait?

MAN:  At the station that night there also happened to be an Innu hunting party blown in by the storm. Further south than they usually traveled they didn’t really need the shelter or supplies. They were accustomed to getting by with few comforts. But they’d decided to go see the construction site.
They wanted to be able to tell their children about the place where everything changed. About the place where the river’s power was sold to the south in exchange for the last of their memories. They were old. Their children didn’t know what they knew. Their grandchildren would never know. They wanted to see the place where this final change would happen.
 What they found instead was a couple in need.

Woman:    The grandmother in the hunting party had been at many births and she took things in hand. As she worked to prepare she sang songs. It was a dialect from which Mary and Joe could only catch a word or two – the odd phase rang familiar – but the comfort of the woman’s song ran deep within them. The old man with her, her husband, sat on a milk crate in the corner keeping rhythm with a shaker he’d produced from deep parka pockets.

MAN:  Not many in the camp slept that night. The winds howled and everyone was sure that it was Mary’s cries they heard. No one dared break in on them until finally they could stand it no longer. The storm was raging.
 They woke the Shift Boss to go find out. “We’re worried about how they’re doing out there in that shack in this storm!” they explained.

“Storm? What storm?” he asked stumbling over to his office window. As he lifted the blind they saw a in the window luminous glow – green, blue, white, orange filling the windowpane. They all crowded to the window in wonder.

Woman:    The wind had blown the storm over - and now a still quiet had descended upon the camp. The stars pierced the black night like high trumpet notes while the sky danced with colour -celebrating the limitless universe -filling their eyes to overflowing, making their hearts jump up laughing and their guts boom deep – all without a sound.

They knew - as if with one mind. Their gaze now turned to the storage shed where they saw a dull low light in the window. Without a word they all – every one of them – headed for the door – without stopping for parkas they walked out into the night and to the door of the shed where they suddenly halted – still – unsure - for a century it felt like – until finally the Shift Boss reached out and turned the handle and they one by one filed into the room.

MAN:  It was no room. It had become a sanctuary. In the dim light the ceiling seemed to soar above them. The crates and boxes were ancient stone pillars rising in grandeur. The four people inside became priests at an altar where something new lay quietly breathing among blankets in an empty banana box. You could almost hear her tiny breath – the quiet awe was so thick among them.


Afterwards they tried to explain it – to friends and family and strangers – whoever might listen –

Woman:    They said, “It was like the baby was aware of my presence. I felt this connection - like I felt when my own kids were born. I’d never even met the parents before, yet being there – there was such a sense of belonging in that room. I felt like time had stopped and the whole universe was spinning around us – with us standing there at its centre.

“It’s crazy talk I know. But the funny thing was – over breakfast when we talked it over – we all felt the same. We all just knew that something had happened that would change everything.

MAN:  “We were changed. Don’t ask me how. I just know that now - since that night - I’m watching and searching and aware of things I’d never noticed before. There’s something new inside me I never knew before – or had long forgotten. I know we’ll be hearing good news coming from that girl one day.”

Enter the Stillness
enter the stillness
the place of the young child
the place of wonder

the stillness
like rest
after a long journey
longer than you thought
you thought it’d never end

the stillness
where home is
where the heart rests
in another’s care

The care of an egg
light in the dark
dark and still so still
silent night
Reverend Alleycat
Christmas Eve 2012

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