By John Thomas Tuft

The Presbyterian/Lutheran Joint Christmas Carolers Commission gathered in front of the shiny new church building, brandishing their flashlight candles like magic wands to ward off the chorus of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” coming from the rowdy Methodist youth group across the street. The Caroling Competition was big doings in the town, and even the Moravians showed up with their banner proclaiming, “Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur,” without a hint of irony. Unitas fratrum not withstanding, every church wanted to win the prize, a $500 gift certificate from Busby’s Sacred Music Emporium, because face it, churches hate to pay for music. There are only so many rock star level celebrity preachers to go around to suck up the dollars of Bible Belt ballesteros and other baptismal afficionados eager for their shot at demonstrating a little drummer boy level of devotion to the Great Arrival.

Surely, I jest, for I am a mere storyteller. We can no more explain any story of the Great Arrival than we can explain how physical matter creates a mind, and a sentient one at that. Mystery, faith, divinity: these are nothing more than words pointing to a story. Endless volumes have been written by very learned scholars and monks, mystics and others who have spent too much time gazing into mirrors. Which makes this story all the more poignant,  because it never happened, yet it is true. The Caroling Competition began, and the singers roamed the streets, stopping to serenade the old and wise, the young and foolish, the rich and poor, the alone and the lonely. Always being sure to ask for their audience to fill out a score sheet. Otherwise, how would we know who is the winner? As well as voting for their favorite carol, with “All I Want for Christmas is You” being banned from the playlist.

One by one, each group passed an old man sitting on a bench at the corner of Main and First. He called out to each group in a loud and annoying voice, “Beware, this is the last Christmas. Beware, no one hears your songs. Beware, no one wants your gifts. This will be the last Christmas.” The Baptists and the Roman Catholics lodged a complaint with the PLJCCC about this nuisance, who promptly dispatched the Episcopalians to investigate. But when they arrived at the bench, they found a young girl holding a one legged pigeon. “Whom do you seek?” asked the girl. “We want the man who claimed that this will be the last Christmas!” they declared, in that way only Episcopalians can declare. “Why do you want him?” asked the girl, stroking the pigeon’s soft feathers. “Because we need Christmas,” they said. The girl held the pigeon to her ear, nodded, then said, “Nope. You cannot have it any longer.”

The Episcopalians, and to be fair you can insert your own group here, returned to the PLJCCC and reported the news. A cross denominational study group quickly formed and returned to the bench forthwith. To their surprise they found a boy sitting there, naked and holding the rope of a blind donkey with a peacock on its back. “What is all this about there being no more Christmas?” they demanded. The boy shivered in the cold wind as he said, “Why do you need Christmas?” and the peacock spread its tail in full display. “So we can sing carols, and have trees and lights, presents and Santa, and celebrate the Great Arrival.” The naked boy whispered in the blind donkey’s ear. The donkey shook its head and brayed, “What’s in it for me?” The fright of a donkey who could talk sent the study group back to the drawing board at the new, shiny church building.

By this time, word had spread through the entire town that this was to be the last Christmas. Indignant, they gathered at the church and the PLJCCC led a march to the bench. When they got there, a young beautiful woman with dark skin and piercing eyes awaited them. They could not help but notice the heavy chains that bound her to the bench, but none dared to ask her about them. “Why is this the last Christmas? Christmas forever! More Christmas, not less!” chanted the crowd, louder and louder. She waited until they paused. “What is the matter?” she asked. “I gave you a wise man. I gave you a  poor child in need. I even gave you a naked angel and wondrous animals.” They were not afraid. Not in the least. “Christmas is the Great Arrival. Don’t take that away from us!” they cried out. “We need Christmas.”

She looked at them, tears in her eyes. But they could not tell if she was laughing or if she was crying as she told them: “When you open your eyes each day, it is the Great Arrival. When you open your mouth or open your arms, it is the Great Arrival. Type into your cell phone and you announce the Great Arrival.

Tell your story and you are telling the story of Christmas. You are the Great Arrival.” Just then the lights of the snowplow truck blinded them, and the noise it made distracted them. But when they looked back, she was gone.

So, if and when, you yourself ever come across this bench, remember this: it is only and always a story. However, the Great Arrival is the story of you…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.