In a rare and wonderful moment, it began snowing in Alabama. The white fluffy stuff we usually see is cotton or blossoms blowing across the yard from the Bradford Pear trees . Today was special.
I had been at work all afternoon when a co-worker announced the boss had called and wanted all of us to go home immediately. Driving in the snow around here is not for the faint of heart. A hint of flurries can send the entire city to Walmart for “bread and beer,” as they say in these parts !
I was taken in by the beauty of fresh fallen snow like scenes I had loved so much in our time living in New England. It was as if the “thrill of hope” was rising up to greet the Christmas season with anticipation of joy divine.
The sun had already set on this winter’s night but the scene couldn’t pass by without snapping a picture to document the new verse heaven and nature were singing for us. With the lights from my mini-van still casting a spotlight on our little cottage, the scene made for a “Currier & Ives” Christmas-card-like photo.
After the ooh’s and ahh’s, I realized what had been captured in my picture-perfect-Christmas-card-like photo … my homeless friend’s “cart” nestled right up to the right of our home…the one she uses to carry her treasures .
You see, a few days earlier, our friend, Sheila, had knocked on our door asking if she could leave her cart (or buggy, depending on how you see it) in our yard for safe keeping until she cold return to pick it up.
One man’s trash is always another man or woman’s treasure and your treasure must be protected from others who might seize an opportunity to cash in on a hard day’s labor of gathering. Cans for cash. Bedding for the tent. Maybe trinkets for possible resale. Practical items. Blessings for a friend. Beauty for ashes.
Could she leave it in our yard — about “10 minutes,” she asked?
Based on a past experience of keeping her “treasure” safe in our yard, I knew 10 minutes could turn into a few days so I responded with some version of, “As long as you’re coming back in 10 minutes,” adding a feeble explanation about how I had been sick with a sinus migraine headache and still recovering. She lifted her hand in prayer over me and said I was healed in Jesus’ name. Sickness had to go. God had healed me.
How could I say no now?
As I suspected, 10 minutes turned into days and at some point — I must admit — I got a little annoyed with it being there and complained I wanted to move it down the street …get it out of our yard. I mean, after all, it didn’t fit in with my cottage decor and landscape. Who wants a cart loaded with trash bags hanging off of it right in front of the window showcasing the Christmas tree with all its shining lights and all.
It’s a misfit to the “Currier & Ives” scene, you know. Let’s face it, we work hard to create the perfect scene and this wasn’t part of the planned display. What would the neighbors think? It might give the impression we didn’t keep our yard clean of such undesirable junk. The desired scene would now be messy.
Sheila did return …but not to retrieve the entire “cart”…just the bags loaded onto it. With all the bags gone, however, you could see this was not just any cart– but a make-shift one using a baby stroller. She had taken the bags and left the stroller in plain sight…nestled into our Christmas “scene” …outside my window and, you guessed it — the window showcasing our Christmas tree.
And it wasn’t until I looked at my earlier magical photo of our home in the snow with all the Christmas lights that I really saw the beauty of it all. The stroller added reality to the Christmas story. Baby Jesus. Outside. Homeless. Born in a barn instead of the comfort and safety of a hospital or warm home. Messy. Unsightly. Not in the landscape plans made from expectations of how things should be or how one would have hoped they’d be.
The accepted religious traditions didn’t include the undesirable in their perfect-picture church scene. They were looking for rich and famous. Desirable. Popular. Well-groomed. Prosperous. A savior of their own making not the one outside in the make-shift stroller pushed around by a homeless person.
And yet, here it was…gracing the landscape we created with a contrast of a Divine touch. Fresh fallen snow like fresh fallen mercy on our flawed perceptions of the real beauty of the birth of our Savior. An Outcast and an Outsider giving us acceptance and the warmth of His love.
How often do we miss this in our attempts at picture-perfect-Christianity? Have our visions of God’s story of redemption been so wrapped in human perceptions that we’ve walked by the scene and turned the other way in disgust or disbelief at the sight and the smells of the truth?
And the stroller’s still tucked in my yard … God nestling heaven’s view onto earth’s canvas.
Do you see what I see?