Friday, December 25, 2020

Without a star to guide us

 Last year I wrote about an unfortunate situation that developed when one of our creche figurines got overlooked while packing up Christmas the year previously. It turns out that his gruesome experience being left out all year has provided sage counsel for his cousin, who, unknown to everyone except Charles Dickens, turns out to be a close cousin of one of the figures from our church creche. The saga continues...

Dear cousin,

I remember reading with horror about your experiences during the tumultuous year in which those thoughtless humans left you on their shelf all year to deal with that fierce cat and all of the non-Christmas, brutal world with its heat and politics. Well, now I need your help. You'll never believe what has happened.

When I first heard about your plight I was in my comfortable box with all of my companions for the off-season. I felt a little guilty about it, actually, but a long slumber between Decembers is our not unhappy lot, and there was little I could do. But the time comes every year to venture forth; one feels it in one's porcelain. It was time to wake up and join the tableaux once more. At first it was a pleasant anticipation, but then as the days lingered I grew more impatient. Surely they would come get us. 

But they did not. 

Finally, I got up the courage to open the lid of the box and peer out. There were no signs that anybody was around. In fact, the whole place was empty. 

After a thorough investigation, during which I determined that 1) our clocks and calendars are not off and that it is indeed December and 2) there does seem to be occasional human activity, but nobody is putting up any kind of Christmas decorations except for one small tree in the lobby, I have decided to write you to see if you are experiencing anything similar. What is going on this year? They've never not had Christmas! They couldn't! Surely!

Could they?

A wise man feeling not very 

Dear balthasazaris---hang it, I never could figure out how to spell your name. I wish you were one of the camels. They have names like Joe.

I'm afraid the situation is rather serious. There appears to be a deadly disease among the humans. They are avoiding gathering at places like yours. Our pair are at home in their usual mode, and they have decorated, and as I write this I am looking out from my usual perch on their media center. 

By the way, all the gang sends their regards. Including the sheep. They want you to know that. I think they have you mixed up for a shepherd.

I don't know what to tell you. Christmas is still going on, but you may have to sit in your box this year. It does sound like they are getting on as best they can and plan to have the usual full-blown celebration next time.


Dear Joseph (I have no idea why you like to use your nickname; it's confusing)

Your news is hard to bear!

The cast have practically mutinied. I had to let them out of their box for some air. We have decided to go on nightly walks around the sanctuary, which I heard is not unlike a tradition that the humans have for going around re-enacting the search for a place to stay by the Holy Family. Only when we are done circumnavigating the aisles one time we are all tired and need to get back in our box. It takes us several hours but it is peaceful. It is eery. It may even be somewhat holy. It is hard to know. Holy things are easier to know about in retrospect when there is less confusion. In any case, I hope you are all doing well. If there is any relief you can provide my heavy heart, please don't hold back. Otherwise, we will try to bear up under our load the best we can, but it is hard.

No Christmas! At least, not for us...

Balthazar (NB)

Dear B____

It is often during times of intense suffering that we are best prepared to grow into that which we must become. Of course, not all of our suffering is equal. Were you not a king you might bear up more easily under this sudden loneliness. Consider the shepherd. The bible has several, but in each manger scene there is always exactly one. Think about his existence, forever condemned to be without his fellow trade-persons, forever feeling underdressed in the presence of three kings! and yet, they are the cheerfullest fellows and do not even seem to mind it when you toss their sheep around.

Consider your companions. As you think about their needs and anxieties and how best to take care of them in this challenging time, your own difficulties may briefly vanish.

I don't mean that you shouldn't be sorrowful. It is hard for us all. Even those still in service are missing the usual Christmas gatherings; and in those houses where the merriment goes on as usual they fear the most because they know that some of that number will not be there to celebrate again.

I can tell you this: that suffering as I did last year has made me more patient, and more hopeful. It is not that there must always be light after darkness--someday there may not be. But as it has happened before so it might be again. And there is always something we can learn in the darkness if we welcome it into our souls as the fast before the feast. 

The other night something amazing happened in the skies. We were told that a Christmas star--your star, perhaps--would appear in the sky for the first time in 800 years. We rushed to the window, but of course it was cloudy and we couldn't see it.

But it was there anyway.

Yours in light and in darkness,


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