Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Tale

I love the Christmas Story, the lights, the glitter, the love. I love that the day coincides with the first glimmer of the rising sun. I love the madness that reminds us how tenuous our grip is.

Here's a photo from the latest Vatican nativity scene. It's a lovely crèche, just unveiled on Christmas Eve, and as tradition mandates, the Magi are there, bearing their gifts.

Only problem, the wise men didn't show up until a year or two after the birth, at least according to the Holy Bible.

I'm not looking for a fight on Christmas Day. I was raised Irish Catholic, grew up with various crèches as much a part of today as our tree and our Santa, and put faith in The Gospels (while recognizing humans told these stories long after the Crucifixion).

But here's the rub--just asking a practicing Christian when the Wise Men finally got to Bethlehem often brings an  incredulous stare with a hint of hostility.

If the Vatican sanctions the bastardized story that the Magi were present the night of Jesus' birth, a story the Holy See must know to be corrupt, what hope does a science teacher have of sharing stories that do not fit a child's preconceptions of the universe?

None, actually, but my goals are far less grandiose. I just want a child to learn to see, and to question inconsistencies in our stories based on the natural world.

If a child happens to question the inconsistencies in other parts of her life--sustainable economic "growth," Peacekeeper missiles, and a nuclear submarine named the USS Corpus Christi ("the body of Christ")--she has a chance to change a human world that needs a bit of changing, a world that is worth saving.

The Corpus Christi insignia is from

Yes, I know the official name is USS City of Corpus Christi--heck, I even lived there when I was still a Marine brat--but it's original name was Corpus Christi, changed under pressure by the Church, despite objections by the Navy Secretary John Lehman.

The nativity scene by Max Rossi (Reuters) via Indonesia Katakami.


Mary Ann Reilly said...

Stories, are well stories. They help us to find and lose our way, forget our place and wish for more than we might be able to attain. They exemplify our grace, our greed, our fears, our mythologies, our science and poetry. We craft & re/tell our and others' stories.

The problems arise when we mistake our very human stories as something ordained, something existing beyond our very mortal and limited selves.

Stories are erroneous, magical, truthful, inspired and so on: just as we are.

Merry Christmas, Michael to you and yours.

doyle said...

Dear Mary Ann,

Indeed, and as stories, lead our lives. It is when we impose human limits to ideas we cannot fully comprehend that we get into trouble.


And stories are as we are, and matter as we matter, because we are, in the end, the stories we create.

Merry Christmas you and yours as well. Your words and images and stories help me get through this darkness.

Unknown said...

I got into a ridiculous spat in Sunday school as a child, because I insisted that the wise men came later and that there was no proof that there were only three. I imagined a large caravan shocking the hell out of Mary and Joseph. I also told them that there was nothing in the gospel about how Mary stayed on a mule while Joseph walked. I was told kindly to keep my mouth shut.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Frustrating, eh?

If one uses the Bible as evidence (and I am aware of its human origins), only things clear are that there are at least two wise men, and that they took a bit of time to get to Jesus--Iraq Air wasn't available.

Took a little work for me to convince my pastor to look, but it's only a few words, and they're easy to understand.

Anonymous said...

I am a plankowner. The Corpus Christi is an excellent boat. And tomorrow is Veteren's day. I stood on the boat as we slid down the ways after it was christened. Christened is a great word for naming a boat Corpus Christi. Perhaps the irony strengthened our hull.


doyle said...

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your service on this eve of Veteran's Day. Irony does funny things, eh, mate?