Friday, December 9, 2011

Who is the Cabana Fruit Lady of Bethlehem?

The little Lord Jesus is laying in a manger full of hay.  Mary is reposed next to him, adoring His cute little baby-ness.  Joseph looks like he's in conversation with a shepherd, while the kings look on with their camels watching the whole thing.  The shepherds have politely parked their sheep a little ways away so the small children of Kalamazoo can walk among them and pet their ceramic fur.  An angel appears to be swooping down in the back of this holy, familiar scene. 

We've heard the story.  We know the players.  Shepherds were out watching their sheep...the angel said, "hey, come check this out!"  The kings have come from afar, NOT appearing on the same day Jesus was born, by the way, but a little while later.  You might not even notice her in the scene, but there she is...the Cabana Fruit Lady of Bethlehem.  Well, at least that's what my kids called her.      

Do you see her? 

She's a little behind the king, over Mary's right shoulder.  She's carrying a basket of fruit, and smiling.  She almost looks like she's dancing.  Who is she?  In all the versions of the Nativity I've heard, I've never heard of a fruit girl.  I don't have a problem with her being there, I just wonder if there's some "fruit girl" story out there that I've never heard.  I love a good story, and have been known to tell a few myself, so I have been intrigued by this little lady since we left there.  

Her features aren't as defined as the other statues, almost like she's meant to blend in with the background, but if she wasn't part of the story, why would they even bother to put her there?  I think she's there intentionally.  Obviously some city employee (I picture him being named Mark, although I don't know any city employees named Mark) unwrapped her from her protective summer wrappings and set her here carefully so as not to break any apples off her basket.  But she's not a major player, so why is she here?  

I have a theory.  

It is not based in scripture, or religious teaching, but just the ponderings of my own heart, in conversation with my Maker. I think she's us.  I think she's us regular hard-working people who are going about our lives, selling our apples, or mucking our stables, or working in our cubicles in an office somewhere.  I think she's every person who has been busy with their work, only to look around and discover that God was there!  She is in the presence of Holiness!  She was just doing her job, and she got to see the baby Jesus! I wonder if she helped Mary deliver that baby.  I wonder if she visited them often before they left for Egypt.  Maybe she even helped the kings find the right place.  Look at the joy in her face!  No wonder she looks like she's dancing!  Her heart is dancing with Joy!    

Do you ever feel the presence of God where you work?  How about at home, when you are just going about the stuff you always do?  Laundry?  Dishes?  Do you see God in that job? What if you were doing Jesus' laundry?  Or cleaning the plates Jesus and his friends ate on?  Would you try to grow a better apple if you knew it was going to the Holy Family?  Maybe that's why she's there.  Maybe she's there to remind us that the birthing of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem has EVERYTHING to do with how we live, and work, and love each other.  Maybe it's to remind us that even the Cabana Fruit Lady of Bethlehem has a little piece of GOD in her, and she's part of the story!  So are we. 

My prayer is that today we will do our work like we're doing it for Jesus himself.  I pray we find Joy in serving, and love everywhere we go.  


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