December 20, 2015

A Time to Cleave*

The Father peered outside and watched His Son at work.  A lump formed in his throat as he realized what would happen soon.  Reluctantly, he called out to the young man, requesting that he come back to the house.  He gazed steadily at the youth trotting toward him, as if he was afraid he would disappear if he didn't keep watch.  They had always been together.  How could he let him go….?

“It’s time, Son,” was all he said watching the other’s face light up with expectation.  Surprised, the father asked if his son knew what would happen next. 

“Yes, Dad.  We have to rope the comet, gather up the horses for the horsemen and all the other battle implements and prepare to…

“No!  Not that time.  That will happen the next time.  For now you travel to earth under different accommodations.  Did you forget the original plan?  I can see from your confused look that you have, so let’s go over it one more time.”

The Son really knew the plan, but just wanted to see his Dad laugh one more time before he had to leave.  “Let’s see, I fly down wearing a close fitting suit with tighty-whities over my clothes and a cape flying behind me. I have will have gorgeous hair, blue eyes, six-pack abs and a strong, cleft chin, all of which are highlighted by my suit. I land in Rome, use my X-ray vision and super strength overpower the all the world’s tyrants and save the oppressed people so they can experience truth, justice, and the American way.”  The only indication on his solemn, placid face that he was suppressing laughter was the twinkle in his eyes.

Contorting his face into a Very Stern Look took extreme effort as the Father managed to get out, “No plan of mine will EVER involve wearing tighty-whities over your clothes” before bursting into laughter.  Then they were consumed by spasms of laughter, audible and silent, for many minutes until both ended up on the floor wiping tears from their eyes, though neither of them knew if they were from the laughter or for the separation that was coming all too soon.

The Father continued more soberly, “No, you will become a baby to be born in the same messy way we designed it, not able to control your bladder, completely dependent on your parents for everything.  Your earthly parents are loving, God-fearing people, but they are a poor couple, not even married yet, who live in that tiny town in a small community. Right before you are to be born, I will have that capricious leader we put in charge make everyone in the country go to their birth town so he can get a better estimate of tax money to be raised.  The town is small and will be overflowing with people.  Your parents will not be able to stay with relatives and will even have to make do staying in a barn.  My only birth announcement will come from the angels singing to those shepherds near the town.  The only gifts you will receive will be from some superstitious court magicians who will travel thousands of miles to see you, but will be several years too late for the actual birth.  You will grow up like any baby, becoming stronger and wiser and more capable.  You will astound people with your wisdom, your kindness and compassion, your ability to heal people and your love.  In other words, you will show them exactly how we are so they are less likely to mis-interpret what we have said in the past, though, knowing them, they will manage it anyway.” Sadness descended on his face at the last sentence.

Looking intently at the Father, the son summarized the plan:  “So I will be born a completely ordinary child to a couple of nobodies in the boondocks of Nowhere-ville who have to travel to another speck of a town which will have no room for them in a regular house.  I will be born in a smelly, dung-filled barn and my first bed will be a cow’s feed box, anointed with cow slobber.  You will extravagantly spend the music of the angels to deliver your message to a group of people who’s testimony is considered invalid in a court of law and who can’t even participate in the Jewish ceremony of atonement.  The only way that people will think I am special as a baby will be in the way I was conceived, which will be a constant source of ridicule for both me and my earth family.  And I will not have any special powers that will be appreciated by any except the most desperate, the plebeians, the proletariat.  The people of influence, the powerful, the rich, will either dismiss me, ignore me completely, or try to kill me.  Oh, and dad, you failed to mention that my true mission is to make peace between us and them by paying off the debt of sin they have been and will be generating for tens of thousands of years.”

The Father looked away, not wanting his Son to see the stricken look that passed over his face.  When he could speak, all he could say was, “You know that when you love someone as much as we do, you will do anything to save them from themselves.”

The Helper had joined them and together, they had their last group hug for a while, all of them crying piteously.  An angel, seeing them, slipped off on an errand.  The Father saw him leave and pulled himself together so he could get one last look at His Son.  “Now remember, you will never truly be alone.  The Helper will be with you always, giving you my instructions and helping you execute your mission.  Make sure you take care of yourself.  I will also send earthly people to care for you and to make sure you get enough sleep and enough to eat.  And when they fail you, I will send angels.  There will only be that very, very small insignificant time when we will not be able to even look at you because of your…situation.  You understand, right?”

The boy nodded and kissed His Father and best friend and, with the Helper’s arm around him, left on his mission.  Deep sadness welled up in all three once again, a sadness that broke their hearts, a sadness that would not truly leave them until, once again, in a short time, they would be reunited.  “So this is what earthly people experience so many times in their life” thought each person as the Son left.


This story was inspired not only by the Gospels, but also by so many people, pastors, authors, and friends, who have re-told the Christmas story in modern vernacular.  For many years, I told a version of this to my kids to entertain them as we folded clothes.  Special mention goes to David Plaep, author of “Beholders of the Rising Sun” who has burned a vision of the shepherd’s scene in my memory, along with the idea that God’s first sacrifice for us on the road to redemption was having to be separated from His only Son whom He dearly loves, from whom I borrow heavily.  He is so much better at telling the story than I am.  I highly recommend the book.
*Note:  the verb "to cleave" can mean both "to divide as by a cutting blow" AND, as an intransitive verb, "to adhere closely, loyally and unwaveringly"

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