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"The Ragamuffin's Christmas"

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Day 14: Christmas On The Block

“Jesus said, "Go ahead—see again!
Your faith has saved and healed you…”
I stirred suddenly at the sound of the bells from the church and I realize that I have been smiling broadly. Yesterday’s scene really brought me happiness I loved Brennan Manning as if he were my own father.
Seeing him interacting with Jesus was something I’ll cherish through eternity.
Taking the calendar in my hands I hesitate before opening the next scene. I examine the calendar again, half way through now and I am truly understanding the mystery and wonder that my friend Wick was hoping I would find…and I think he knew all along I would.
I open the little door and I recognize the faces. Instantly a song runs through my mind. It's one of my favorite Christmas songs, by a Philadelphia artist named Allan Mann.
The song is called Christmas on the Block.

There's a streetlight that sits above the night
And it shines its gray light on the midnight air
And the houses twinkle on the block
But there's one house that shines a special way out there
And its Christmas in the city
And the trees are lighted pretty
But the prettiest Christmas tree of all
Can you see all the colors that we cannot?
And theirs is the most beautiful Christmas on the block
Though they cannot see the light of day
And the night is forever, the fact still remains
In this world of confusion there is peace
There is hope and despair, sometimes the beauty is a beast
And they cannot see the lightning
And they cannot see the thunder
But they know what no one understands
That beauty is a blessing; love is all we've got
And theirs is the most beautiful Christmas on the block
In the darkest corner of the night
Only dreams illuminate their eyes
And they see all the colors
That we cannot
And theirs is the most beautiful Christmas on the block
And they cannot see the lightning
And they cannot see the thunder
But they know what no one understands That beauty is a blessing
Love is all we've got
And theirs is the most beautiful
Christmas on the block 

Two figures enter the cave with the unmistakable hesitancy of blindness. The couple bows and slowly makes their way to the manger. Mary is moved to tears with compassion for the blind couple who have come to worship their Savior. Each year, it is their arrival that moves Mary and Joseph the most. They have such love for the child and yet they have never gazed on His face with earthly eyes.
They have been blind from birth and they have never seen any baby, much less the infant Son of God. They find their way to the side of the crib, and they reach in to pick Him up. Mary smiles through tears of joy and Joseph looks on with admiration. They have said nothing to each other until now. “Hello Mary...hello Joseph," the couple whisper. Mary chokes back tears. Their voices sound like the familiar sounds of old friends.
Maybe it is because this couple, who needs so much from this Savior, has never asked for anything. They have not only accepted their blindness, but used it to bless others who have perfect physical sight. They don't complain, they don't whine. They decorate a tree on their front porch and invite people from the entire city to come and decorate it with them. In doing so they share Jesus with the city.
They know how to hold Christmas in their hearts and it just naturally overflows onto the streets of Upper Darby, the neighborhood in Philadelphia where they live in a modest row home, and on to the rest of my hometown. They never considered when they began their tradition, that a young and talented songwriter would write a Christmas song about them and it would wind up on MTV in the early budding days of the network. They just wanted to show the world that they got it. That they knew that Christmas was more than things you can see.
Mary hugs the woman a long time. They are practically friends and Mary seems somehow comfortable with her in a way the other visitors don't leave her feeling. Perhaps it is the blindness, or the simplicity. Likely it is the fact that this wonderful blind couple comes here each year and never asks for anything from the baby. They just spend time loving Him.
The woman holds Jesus affectionately and traces His face delicately with her fingertips. “He is so beautiful!" is her hushed whisper. Her husband fumbles for her hand and says "Show me..." The woman takes his hand in hers and together they gently touch Jesus cheeks, His lips, they stroke His hair. He is enamored with this couple. They ask for nothing. They are as vulnerable in their blindness as He is in His infancy. He somehow knows this and it makes him smile.
Mary whispers in the darkness to the couple, "If you asked Him, I believe he would, even at this age." The woman smiles in the direction of her voice, "Oh no Mary. God must have wanted us this way for a reason. We don't need to be healed to love Him “I know that," Mary smiles, "But I bet He would anyway." The couple worships Jesus for a long, long time. They touch His face and commit His features to memory. He falls asleep in her arms and she places Him in his manger crib.
The couple turns and crawls towards the doorway. They stop and Mary and Joseph hug them for unashamedly for several minutes. You are our most welcome guests," Mary says, "Thank you for loving my son." The man wipes tears away and smiles. "Mary, Joseph...thank you for letting us see Him. When we close our eyes in worship, we see Him just as clearly as everyone else does." Mary weeps openly at these words. Joseph hugs the man for a long time. “We have to go," the wife whispers to Mary, "There are a few more lights to put on that tree on our porch and people will be stopping by until late into the night."
The blind couple fumble in their perpetual darkness toward the cave entrance and out into the night, heading home to the Upper Darby section of Philadelphia, to finish their tree that tells the real story of Christmas.
They are worshiping a baby they have never seen, except in their hearts where it matters most.

“I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden.  I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.” -Helen Keller

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