Even unto Bethlehem

Kathie Gibboney

I had one of those exasperating working dreams, filled not only with great physical effort, but mental anguish and a time limit. I’ve suffered the hideous waitress nightmare wherein I’m overwhelmed by customers clamoring for service which I cannot provide, or the lost or forgotten cat scenario where I’m searching desperately for kitty.

This dream, however, was even more taxing, more disturbing and deeply terrifying. A cleaning nightmare. God give me strength. In the dream no matter how much I sorted or culled through piles of debris, clothing, food stuffs, (I distinctly remember a cracked mustard jar), small appliances and tattered holiday decorations, there was always more, the job unending and time running out. I awoke dazed, exhausted, in a foul and lousy mood for, obviously, the dream meant my life was one grand mess and then you die.

I walked about the house grumpy in my robe and ugly slippers mumbling about the futility of life, fully ready to embrace hating Roy Moore and his horrible wife, as well as the gophers who ate my roses. When the Beleaguered Husband asked, out of genuine concern for my bitter behavior, and no doubt unfetching appearance, for I do not wear bitter well, if there was anything he could do for me, I barked back, “What could you possibly do?”  

  Obviously, this is no way to enter the Season of Light.  Perhaps, if I but straighten a drawer, turn on some Christmas music and look for miracles, they will appear. After all, there are miracles aren’t there? Sometimes two socks match.

   So, though it’s only November I make a choice. While driving through a hot Topanga day, I tentatively turn the radio dial to the all-Christmas-music-all-the-time station, fully realizing by so doing I am turning a corner and there will be no coming back; I’m opening the door and on the other side is Christmas in all its splendid largesse, just waiting to come rushing through. And you can’t just open the door a crack and take a quick peek. No, Christmas waits, poised like a coiled Jack in the Box, to spring through any opening, however small, and bring all its glory and garish gaiety right into the very car you’re driving, as if Santa, himself, is now in the passenger seat, sipping an eggnog and Ho! Ho! Ho-ing through the S Curves!  Then turning to say with the wink of his eye, “Ready or not!”

   No! I’m not ready, but over the radio comes a song that fully embraces ushering Christmas in early because sometimes, you just need a little Christmas now.  The song, appropriately titled “We Need a Little Christmas Now,” was written by Jerry Herman in 1966 for the musical, Mame, and is sung when she has lost everything.  It is a poignant song and often misinterpreted as nothing but a jubilant romp, but it is really about flagging spirits and an attempt to rally: “Put up the brightest lights I’ve ever seen, Because I’ve grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older, And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now’.      

(I recommend the Johnny Mathis version over the banal Andy Williams.)

Suddenly, Christmas delivers!  I’m asked to direct a small Nativity presentation at Lake Shrine where I am a Sunday School teacher. What is more miraculous than the Nativity story?  Now, in the past, I used to direct some wild and woolly Christmas productions, with rock ‘n’ rollin’ shepherds, frisky angels, and wise men and woman, following a star who ran up and down the aisles and kept changing direction.   

This is a different kind of event, which is supposed to be solemn and peaceful, not exactly my specialty. My style is much more spontaneous and raucous, encouraging and enthusing my young actors and making it fun while presenting the story. Nonetheless, I accepted the sacred task and felt honored.  

Now, I rather suspect it was a bit of a miracle to have been asked at all, for I was told that several other more conservative directors had been approached and were unavailable.  So, I was not the first choice but I feel, somehow, Church founder Yogananda, went to some trouble to place me in the role of director. And I, like Linus in Charlie Brown, will get to speak those beloved, familiar verses: “And there were in that same country Shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night and an angel of the Lord came upon them and they were sore afraid.  And the Angel said, “Fear not for I bring you tidings of great joy….”     

And, just as if I have an angel sitting on my shoulder, I begin to see miracles all over the place, like this:

  • The reality is we seldom know how we’ll pay the rent; the miracle is we always do.
  • The reality is someone called and said they had kidnapped our daughter; the miracle is it was a scam.
  • The reality is a great and good friend died unexpectedly of leukemia; the miracle is that wonderful man was part of my life and always will be.
  • The reality is we lost a cat in Topanga; the miracle is Butterscotch Tailwind Muldoon is a happy indoor cat.
  • The reality is that we have Barbara Allen as our neighbor; the miracle is that we have Barbara Allen as our neighbor.
  • The reality is the Topanga Messenger newspaper closed; the miracle is the Messenger Mountain News opened.
  • The reality is I am a woman of a certain age; the miracle is, with the right lighting, I can look a few days younger.
  • The reality is Riley was almost hit by a crazed driver in Times Square; the miracle is he will be sitting at our Thanksgiving table.
  • The reality is that our yard is now nothing but dirt, filled with gopher holes; the miracle is that with enough Christmas decorations, you don’t notice the yard.
  • The reality is I disagree with everything Roy and Kayla Moore stand for; the miracle is that I can pray that, like the Grinch, somehow their hearts will open, or they and the gophers will just go away.
  • The reality is religion is used to advance political agendas to justify hate and war; the miracle is the true meaning of Christmas can still shine through:

“And on earth peace, good will toward men…”

…and women and all the rest.


Kathie Gibboney

It has been said that Kathie Gibboney invented the Unicorn, which she neither admits nor denies, as it might reveal her true age. Kathie is an essayist, reporter, and poet for MMN with her column, "My Corner of The Canyon." She lives happily in a now-empty nest in Topanga, CA with The Beleaguered Husband and a marmalade cat.

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