Building a Modern Creche

Let’s build a new creche
a new nativity scene
that’s built with
of our lives
reflecting our modern world.

The Incarnate God
can’t be born
in a stable
no one has stables any longer
(well, some do, most don’t).
What do we have instead?
Garages . . . God will born in a garage.

No! That won’t do!
Nobody would send
a pregnant young girl
to spend a night in a garage!
A homeless shelter, maybe
A charity hospital, maybe
What would Joseph try to do
in modern America?

He’d go to a church:
“Please, pastor, we’re on the road.
My wife is pregnant.
We need some money for a motel.”
A voucher, they’d get a voucher,
for the local cheap motel
the Super 8 Motel 6 Ameristar
Interstate Inn with free cable
and maybe wifi.
That’s where God would be born,
in a seedy highway motel.

And for our Christ Child
what baby doll shall we use?
Black brown yellow red white?
That would be too particular,
wouldn’t it? It would make
the Holy Infant
too much like some
not enough like others
maybe we need a non-human thing,
a metaphoric Baby Jesus?

I know! The toy from
the dog food aisle
a plush green googly-eyed frog
in a Santa hat!
That’s not too particular
no one could claim
such a Holy Infant
looked too much
or too little like
So it will be
green googly-eyed
Santa froggy Jesus!

And Mary, who to be Mary?
Everyday I drive past a
young woman who makes
a Christmas appearance
every year
in this little town of ours.
A plywood Lucy van Pelt.
Eight feet tall if she’s an inch
and holding a Christmas wreath.
Eternally young but worn a bit
with age
she has stood in that yard
every year for more
than a decade.
A perfect blend of childhood
innocence and world-weary
wisdom in a cartoon Mary
for our creche,
that’s plywood Lucy van Pelt.

And her husband, the foster father?
If I drive the other route to work
another neighbor’s yard
displays a nylon blow-up
snowman who wavers
and leans and then gets
a spine and stands straight
only to slump again with
uncertainty not at all sure
what he’s doing where he is.
Joseph, anxious Joseph,
wanting to do the right thing
but needing the windy support
of the Spirit to buck him up
like the snowman’s
electric fan spine.
We have our Joseph!

So now plywood Lucy Mary
and blow-up Snowman Joseph
lay their newborn
green googly-eyed froggy
Santa Jesus
into his make-shift crib
his manger . . . .

No, wait again! This isn’t a stable!
No mangers at Super 8 Motel 6
Ameristar Interstate Inn.
What can they use?
What can they find?
A cardboard box
the copy paper carton from the office
the one that holds the registration
forms and receipts from
the local print shop.
That will do!
And diaper our Holy Child
in the thread-bare barely absorbant
motel bathroom towels
too small for an adult
but fine to swaddle
God Incarnate in
googly-eyed froggy splendor.

Our creche is complete.
The Holy Family awaits
the modern-day shepherds
the night workers:
the 24-hour convenience store
graveyard-shift cashiers,
the midnight linemen
keeping the power lines up
and working in wind
and snow and ice,
the waitress at the Waffle House
both hoping for and dreading
the next customer.
“Glory!” they will think they hear
“Glory!” angels will cry trying
to get their attention.
“Tidings of great joy!”
they will endeavor to push
through the jade and jaundice
of darkened spirits,
and plywood Lucy Mary
and blow-up Snowman Joseph
and froggy Santa Jesus
will wait, and wait, and wait,
hoping that eventually
the waiting
will be fruitful

Maybe some kings or the like
will show up.
Not Melchior, Caspar, or Balthazar.
Perhaps our wise people will be
Barak, or Donald, or Hillary,
or Vladimir, or Bibi, or Angela,
or Bashir, or Xinping, or . . .
who knows?
And perhaps not,
perhaps in a modern nativity
there are no wise men,
no wise women seeking
the newborn froggy
Incarnate God,
there is only
the Holy Family
while somewhere nearby
late night workers
are not sure they have heard
“Glory!” and
wonder what wisdom is
and if anyone possesses it.

= 2 December 2016
C. Eric Funston