And so it came that the Lord was not born in a manger in the middle of an empty field covered with a light dusting of the purest whitest snow, surrounded by angels and wise men and a barn full of docile beasts of burden with proud parents looking on, but was actually born in a noisy, overcrowded stable in the middle of a well-traveled desert on the outskirts of town, just past the market where hookers tried to con married men out of their grocery money for something they’d get at home anyway, a group of muggers and thieves looking on, chaste for the day.
And so it came that the Lord Jesus Christ was not born in a noisy stable, cattle lowing in His ears, chickens cackling underfoot, drunk father passing out cigars to the assembled mass of poker players he owed money to, mother knocked out on home brew (“Yes I know God said there’d be no pain but it ain’t you lyin’ here, dammit, I really need something now”) but was actually birthed underwater in a clear glass hot tub in Soviet Russia, mother nude save a white cloth draped across her forehead, proud father looking on worriedly, watching Son burst from Mother in a cloud of slow-moving, photogenic blood, watching Son bob to the water’s surface and take His first breath, His first scream, His first sip of Mother’s sparse colostreum -yellowed milk.
And so it came that the Lord Jesus Christ was not born in the sterile confines of a twentieth-century first world hospital, white-clad attendants looking on and monitoring every breath, every heartbeat, every muscle spasm in and out of place, but instead was brought screaming into the burnt-out remains of a South American battlefield, streamers of blackened Spanish moss clinging to the dying pillars of napalmed cypress and magnolia, Mother stumbling running falling, Father pulling “Come on, come on, I can hear them they’re still too close” Mother “The baby is being born now I can’t” scarlet and emerald parrots fluttering low over Couple huddle in canopying low-hung branches, javelins snuffling out of underbrush tusks, lowered towards oncoming soldiers, jaguar leaving the rotting carcass of a deer bloating thirty feet above the ground to stand guard over labor pains breath coming too fast, soldiers stopping at the clearing to stand, guns lowered, at ease, curious, offering K-rations and rifle clips to Parents in homage of the Son.
Jesus Christ walked out into a world of poetry poverty depravity martyrs muggers mothers and The Bomb, holding His healing Hands out to the quietly pious stretched out on the racks of the Spanish Inquisition, the walking starving dead of 16th century Ireland and 20th century Auschwitz, the silently-suffering Cherokee and Creek losing blood en route to disease-ridden reservations, the children of the Bikini Island nuclear tests, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the AIDS-infected drug addicts dismissed and forgotten in the streets of Los Angeles and New York.
And when He left, it was not pierced through to a wooden cross, arms flayed wide to lure and/or embrace carrion, it was tied to a post set in a bed of lit timber, the crowd screaming not “Set Barabas free!” but “Burn the heretic!” as a private confident and lover looked on, arms folded on chest, face set as stone.
And when He left, it was not at the torches of lunatic French patriots, but of a wasting disease in the middle of the ocean in the cabin of an abandoned plague ship, the only comfort sea gulls offering gobbets of raw fish and olives from far-away shores.
And when He left, it was not en route to Java or Australia, but roped between four crazed and blinded horses, whipped into a frenzy and pushed stumbling down the side of a steep hill.
And when He left, it was not huddled beneath the falling timbers of the American consulate, but of an accidental overdose maliciously prescribed.
And when He left, it was not sitting on the toilet of His Tennessee mansion, stomach cramping, eyes blurring, but blindfolded and alone before a CIA-sponsored firing squad, convicted of teaching school children how to read both Spanish and English texts.
And when He leaves, it will not be lying comfortably in bed, reading a James Michener novel; it will be at the hands of a NeoNazi vigilante, a boy in a uniform fighting for his country, an antiabortion activist with a pipe bomb, a confident doctor with good intentions, a soused truck driver on his way home from work. He will not go quietly into that final night, but with as much doubt and pain and fear as any one of us, forgetting each previous walk with man upon rebirth, holding tenaciously at death to the belief and the promise that He will come back again to us, and again, and again, and again.