by Howard Hain
There’s a little stable not too far from here.
It sits in a church that has seen better days.
The parish is poor and the people seem to disappear.
But a few persistent peasants won’t stay away.
I love it there.
The priest is wonderfully uncertain.
He is afraid of God.
He instinctively bows his head at the mention of the name.
He knows how little he is in front of the great star.
I imagine he was involved in setting the stable.
It is a good size, on the relative little-stable scale.
It is surrounded by ever-green branches.
Probably snipped from the few Douglas Firs placed around the altar and yet to be trimmed.
The stable itself is composed of wood.
A little wooden railing crosses half the front.
A single string of clear lights threads through the branches laid upon the miniature roof.
They are yet to be lit.
I love it there.
I kneel before the empty scene.
For as of yet, not a creature or prop is present.
Not an ox or a goat, not a piece of hay or plank of fencing.
Not even a feeding trough that is to be turned into a crib.
No visible sign of Joseph and Mary, nor a distant “hee-haw” of a very tired donkey.
I wonder if I could get involved.
Perhaps I could slip into the scene.
There’s a darkened corner on the lower left.
In the back, against the wall.
I could hide myself within the stable.
Before anyone else arrives.
I don’t think they would mind.
I’d only be there to adore.
To pay homage to the new born king.
I might even help keep the animals in line.
Yes, a stagehand, that’s what I can be!
I know there’s no curtain to pull.
That’s to be torn in a much later scene.
But to watch the Incarnation unfold from within!
That’s what I dream.
To see each player take his and her place.
To see the great light locate the babe.
To watch the kings and shepherds stumble onto the scene.
Hark! To hear the herald angels sing!
O the joy of being a simple farmhand.
Of being in the right place at always the right time.
Of course though I wouldn’t be alone.
In that darkened corner, also awaiting the entire affair, there are many others.
Most I don’t know by name.
Too many in fact to even count.
But a few I know for sure.
For certain, present are those few persistent peasants who won’t stay away.
And of course there’s that wonderful anonymous parish priest.
The one who helped set into place this yet empty but very expectant stable.
The one whose fear of God is so clearly the beginning of wisdom.
Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.