The element of surprise

What was the camel thinking?

That’s what I was wondering Saturday night as I watched the sweet spectacle of the Living Nativity play out on Church of the Nativity’s front lawn. Here was this giant ungainly beast, trucked here from his home out in the country along with some ancillary goats and sheep, and trundled out to take a few steps as a star turn in the Nativity story. And arrayed before him were a bunch of people dressed in strange costumes, and there were colored lights, and music and people singing, and the suggestion of a building maybe like its own barn.

What could have been going through that animal’s mind?

Well, maybe I’m imagining too much. Probably camels mostly think about their next mouthful of sweet, sweet grass.

But I couldn’t blame him for wondering. Because the holy birth is a time for wonder, isn’t it? Wonder in the sense of awe – trying to wrap our minds around the impossible circumstance of God in the person of a newborn – and wonder about what it all might mean.

A good part of the life of faith, seems to me, is learning to live with that sense of what-if. We’ll never fully understand the mind of God and what God is up to in our little lives. The birth of the Christ Child comes around again, as it does each year, and only God knows what that will mean for our lives and our world. A revolutionary idea is loosed upon humanity, and who knows what will be upended, what will be healed, what will be inspired?

It’s enough to baffle a camel. We’ll have to see how the drama plays out.

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