Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Jesus tells Christmas story to animals in novel

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks
Jesus tells the story of his birth to animals in the following scene from my novel “Jesus in Love/” Jesus is so in tune with nature that he can converse with animals in the novel. While the book is known for exploring Jesus’ bisexual and trangender feelings, many readers say that this retelling of the Christmas story is one of their favorite scenes. Animals are important in the lives of many GLBT people, and sometimes become our “surrogate children,” so I gladly devote this post to animals. The following scene takes place during Jesus’ wilderness fast.
The cave was filled with animals and angels. The angels were like snatches of melody or wisps of light, singing a prophecy from Isaiah that I had loved since childhood. As they sang, Isaiah’s vision materialized right before my eyes and I was part of it: “The wolf shall live with the lamb. The leopard and the young goat shall lie down together while the lion cub makes friends with the calf, with a little child to guide them. The baby shall play near the cobra’s hole. Nobody will be hurt or injured on my holy mountain, for the earth will be flooded with the knowledge of God as water fills the sea.”… The scene reminded me of a story that Mom and Papa-Joe told me about my birth, so I tried to share it with the animals. “I was born in a stable, a place kind f like this cave,” I began. It was tricky translating my thoughts into the vibrations of so many different species at once. Some understood more than others. “Animals were with me when I was born. There were some like you...and you...and you.” I pointed at the sheep, the goats, the donkeys, and the oxen. “After I was born, I slept in a manger, a place where animals ate their food.” “Food!” Everyone was interested in this part of my story. We talked about food for a long time, until the sun began to set. “You are like food. You make me feel good,” Old Snake said to me, and the others sounded their agreement.
_________ A wonderful song about the animals and baby Jesus is “The Friendly Beasts” by an unknown 12th-century author. Thanks to C.W.S., a friend of this blog, for alerting us to the hymn, which begins: Jesus, our Brother, strong and good, Was humbly born in a stable rude, And the friendly beasts around Him stood, Jesus, our Brother, strong and good. “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown, “I carried His mother uphill and down, I carried His mother to Bethlehem town; I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown... Click here for the whole song


pennyjane said...

what a touching story, kitt. and, yes...maybe some of us do kind of see our animals as surrogate children.

last night at bible study, we're looking into advent songs, we got stuck in a place in scripture. it was when, right after she found out she was pregnant, mary went to visit with elizabeth.

the thing is....scripture leaves so much to the imagination. i couldn't help but want so badly to hear more of this story. i wanted to know what happened during that three months....how those two...very different...women interacted, what did they do, how did they spend their days?

i mean...zechariah couldn't speak..and was busy with his shift at the temple...so...they were pretty much alone.

since...i couldn't think of anything else to do about my curiosity...i thought maybe i'd just come home...pray...and write it myself. then i saw this post...*ping*...so, hey kitt! you busy right now?

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

I've got a busy day ahead. I just made a quick check of the blog and saw your lovely comment.

I wonder about what happened during the in-between times of Scripture, too. Trying to imagine the missing parts of the story is one reason that I wrote my novel "Jesus in Love."

I think it's a great idea to write yourself about what happened after Mary found out she was pregnant. I'd love to read your version of the story!

Trudie, another frequent commenter at this blog, wrote a whole monologue called "Miriam's Journey" that reimagines Mary's whole lifetime, but even she doesn't explore the period after the annunciation and before Mary visited Elizabeth. Trudie, maybe you'd like to fill in the blanks and add a new verse to "Miriam's Journey" to share here on the blog with pennyjane?

pennyjane said...

thanks kitt. i hope trudie will do that! it's always better to get someone elses' view on it.

i did write the biography of uriah once. it was pretty imaginative i guess, but i was disappointed with it in the end. i just put too much of my own self into it, right down to having uriah's first love being a transgirl from gaza. he only went to bathsheba, who was a working girl at a camel stop just east of jerusalem on the road to babylon, on the rebound....and on and on.

anyway...it is something i'd love to read about from a more neutral perspective.

God bless with much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

I reread your comment and understand that you are wondering about how Mary and Elizabeth spent their time together, as well as the period before Mary arrived for her visit. You’ve pointed out a real blank spot! I’ll be meditating on this as my schedule allows, and I’ll let you know what I come up with, too.

“Miriam’s Journey” by Trudie Barreras doesn’t give many details about the months that Mary spent with Elisabeth, either, except this vivid part:

soon I grew ungainly, and the back aches, leg cramps,
And other signals that the babe was growing strong
Both encouraged me and wearied me.

Trudie said...

Hi, Kitt and pennyjane. I've come across some things over the years that discussed the cultural climate at the time of Jesus' birth, and what Mary must have gone through (and Joseph, too) when her pregnancy became obvious. One perspective is that since one of the things Gabriel supposedly told Mary was about her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, Mary's first impulse was one of service. She knew that her cousin, being an older woman, would have a difficult time with her pregnancy, and yet could share wisdom with her while she shared material help.

Also, one might infer that at least part of the "plan" was to get Mary out of Nazareth until the dust settled and, perhaps, Joseph decided what he REALLY wanted to do about the whole situation.

One would suspect, from the description of the meeting of the two women, that the three months between Mary's arrival and the birth of John was a time of rejoicing and praise as well as preparing layettes. Another brief quote from Miriam's Journey:

"We knew her child and mine shared
In God’s most splendid plan, for when we met
Spirit spoke to Spirit, and though no words were spoken
Her unborn baby leaped within her womb, and together
We sang our psalms of praise."

Anyway, I think others should do exactly as you've suggested, and fill in from their own imaginations those parts of various scripture stories which most speak to them. I believe that is exactly how the Holy Spirit wants to bring God's Word to life in our times. Having been through four pregnancies myself, I guess I felt no real compulsion to try to "imagine" what went on with Mary, hence the brief comment that Kitt has already quoted.

Turtle Woman said...

My favorite character in Jesus in Love was Old Snake! The animals parts are just great, usually over looked.

Kittredge Cherry said...

To pennyjane: Wow, “uriah's first love being a transgirl from gaza.” That sounds fascinating!

To Trudie, thanks for adding your perspective. I hope I didn’t bring back some unhappy memories by inviting you to be more specific about the trials and joys of Mary’s pregnancy. The quote you posted is lovely.

What intrigues me about this story tonight is not so much the pregnancy itself or the public scorn because Mary was not yet married. Instead, I keep thinking about one of the first points made by pennyjane: Two women, Mary and Elizabeth, had a lot of time to talk, especially because Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was struck dumb during that visit. That created a special silence that allowed women to speak. I don’t have any great insights into what they said (yet), but I do know how deeply I value those quiet, uninterrupted times that I get with my women friends and relatives.

To Turtle Woman: You’re not the only one who loves Old Snake. She’s a favorite character of many lesbian readers.

Yewtree said...

Yes - I loved the scene in the cave with the animals in your novel. I thought it was very shamanic actually.

Kittredge Cherry said...

"Shamanic"... I love that!