Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent 2013


             One of my professors always had a (joking) issue with the Eastertide illustration used at our campus chapel: a lamb bearing a pennant and a cross.  He thought the lamb seemed to be carrying the pennant rather cheerfully on some martial mission, while he also noted that the cross seemed to be spearing the lamb rather than being carried by it.  He called it the "Crusader Lambchop."  I've always been more interested in words than in pictures, but Rob woke me up to the liveliness and improbability of some of the images we carry around with church.

A few years later a cheap, gold-painted, plaster partridge surfaced in a white-elephant Christmas gift exchange.  The point of the exchange (for some of us) always was to bring the most ridiculous thing possible for under ten dollars.  Surface incongruities drew us throughout the year, as the white-elephant exchange was such a tradition that it would leap to mind whenever we encountered a potential "gift."  An annual party game, and one designed largely on the reality that "thoughtful and funny" is often cheaper than "thoughtful and good," got us mindful of Christmas, or at least some of the merriment of the Christmas season, throughout the year.

The partridge was more or less the right sort of thing, but just so hackneyed on the surface that it couldn't possibly be taken seriously. It was odd, and seasonally appropriate, but it by no means took the cake that year.  (I believe the year's general acclamation went to a fridge magnet of a smooth-cheeked, white man with longish, brown hair, captioned "Jesus Shaves.")

I wouldn't remember the partridge now if it hadn't resurfaced the following year, with a few additions; the friend who'd been stuck with the partridge was an electrical engineer.  It was still a gold-painted, plaster partridge, but now its back incongruously sported a switch...one labeled "holy" and "evil."  Turned to holy, it lit running yellow LEDs in a ring above the bird's head.  Evil caused red LEDs, set in its eyes, to flash disconcertingly slowly.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

That partridge is now a Crusader Lambchop:  too unreal and too lively, either to be taken seriously or to be ignored.  It's also now my first mental image not only of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" but also of the Holy Spirit.  I seem to be collecting a sublime trinity.  And they're working their way into the members of the Trinity who tug at my mind and heart along with my spirit, thanks to a silly series of competitive giftings.


- Jenni Halpin


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