The Beth­le­hem story hap­pens ev­ery day

Seaway News - - OPINION - Nick Wolochatiuk Dances with Words

What will you do if a stranger lead­ing a don­key with a preg­nant woman rid­ing upon it shows up at your front door on Wed­nes­day De­cem­ber 25, 2013?

Prairie artist Wil­liam Kurelek’s book “A North­ern Na­tiv­ity” has 20 de­light­ful paint­ings of ‘ sup­pos­ing con­tem­po­rary Christ­mases’. Through them he ex­plores how peo­ple would deal with needy trav­ellers ap­pear­ing at the door to­day.

The strangers are Mary, Joseph and the new­born Christ child. In one of his many dream­ings, Kurelek sees the Inuit open­ing their igloo door to them (Hmmm…do igloos have doors?). In another sce­nario, the holy fam­ily takes refuge in a prairie rancher’s hay barn. Kurelek sees the trio shel­ter­ing in an empty CN box­car. The door of the shack of an In­dian trap­per fam­ily is flung open to them. Joseph’s beater of a car has died at the side of a min­ing town’s ore tip; a dump truck driver, car­ry­ing his tool box, stops to help.

Mary and Joseph ap­proach a lux­u­ri­ous alpine ski re­sort; I won­der if a wel­come will be of­fered to them. When Joseph ap­proaches a lob­ster­man’s wharf, he has to lis­ten to the litany of ex­cuses as to why he is un­will­ing to help. “Go some­where else” is the gist of his mes­sage.

There is a de­pic­tion of a ‘ ma and pa’ gas sta­tion. Its lights have been ex­tin­guished for the night. The prairie town’s row of grain el­e­va­tors, a wa­ter tower and a mo­tel with a ‘ no va­cancy’ sign are in the back­ground. It seems the holy fam­ily has been al­lowed to overnight in the warm ser­vice bay.

In De­cem­ber of 1978 our fam­ily of two small chil­dren (both un­der the age of five) and a lit­tle white dog were mak­ing our an­nual Christ­mas pil­grim­age from Wil­liamstown to my par­ents’ home in Toronto. Some­where along High­way 2 our ‘don­key’ (an ag­ing 1973 West­falia van) started to fal­ter. It came to rest at a ‘ma and pa’ gas sta­tion.

“You can park here un­til we close for the night at ten o’clock, but af­ter then you’ll have to move on.” When our two cu­ri­ous young­sters ap­peared at the win­dow, the owner just am­bled off to his home di­rectly across the street.

Not the slight­est to­ken of hos­pi­tal­ity was ex­tended. No in­vi­ta­tion to come in to use their wash­room, no of­fer of some hot choco­late for the kids. We hud­dled to­gether to stay warm through the chilly night. Mirac­u­lously, our so­journ seemed to clear up what­ever was ail­ing the van. At the break of dawn, we moved on.

It made me think of a scrip­tural quote Kurelek in­cluded in his ren­di­tion of the first Christ­mas: “…when you did it to one of the least of My brethren, you did it to me.”

Where would the Holy Fam­ily be most likely to be wel­comed to­day? By the res­i­dents of the brightly- lit man­sion with a 15- foot in­flat­able snow­man on the front lawn? By the Shep­herds of Good Hope Mis­sion in Ottawa? By the fam­ily of a laid-off Leam­ing­ton tomato­pro­cess­ing worker in a mod­est ru­ral home?

How will your home re­ceive the stranger who ap­pears at your door?

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