Sunday night in a dream, I was being shown a picture of some lost sheep. My job, which was being given to me by a woman I’ve never met, was to find them. The fact that they were actually two minnows with names like Oscar and Joe made the job slightly more difficult and definitely more urgent because sheep at least don’t need to be in water to stay alive. But I found them. All was well.

It had been a lost sheep week. My friends, the Bastady brothers I mentioned in last week’s column, had lost a dog the week before, and she was still missing that Sunday of the magnificent rainbow and perfect storm. So Monday I made “Lost Dog” signs and put them up where people who work in the surrounding orange groves might see them: a couple of pesticide offices, the irrigation district office, and Strathmore Feed. Tuesday somebody saw one of the signs who’d seen the dog the day before, then somebody else saw the dog that morning and contacted my friends. By Tuesday afternoon she’d been brought home. She has seizures occasionally, so it was kind of a miracle. We had a little party for the prodigal daughter with a giant can of dog food, and have been trying to keep a closer eye on her ever since.  

The best part was going around to take down the signs and let people know she’d been found. You’d think they’d lost their own dog, they were so happy for me. I’m sure they were glad, too, to not have the signs remain up for months, becoming part of the wall. But the joy of finding lost sheep is something many people share. I felt more part of the community.

And then, later in the week, two women from Terra Bella adopted one of the kittens I’ve rescued. That morning they’d lost a kitten they’d been trying to save, the runt of a litter with birth defects, and they saw my “free kittens” sign at the vet’s office where they’d brought him for last rites. They lost that little lamb they’d been tending for months, but then were brave enough to take on another. They took home the female, little Etta, sister to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (both golden boys are still up for adoption, by the way.) It gave me hope.

But then, over the weekend, I began feeling a little lost myself. It’s not uncommon this time of year, with so many people seeming to know the significance of Christmas, so sure of the routine. Whether it’s the manger or the chimney, everyone else seems to know what’s coming. But I seem to get stuck in waiting: waiting those last heavy days of pregnancy hoping the birth will go well, waiting to see what it’s going to be. Waiting to hear the angels sing and reassure me to fear not. Holding my breath, waiting to see the star.  

A woman author I read daily, Episcopalian priest Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, mentioned that both Christmas and Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, are festivals of deliverance. That helped me immensely. From my reading about the prophets, I understand that between Moses and Jesus, between Deuteronomy and Luke, what the people called Israel needed deliverance from was not just the ungodly nations beyond their lands, invading and holding them hostage at home and abroad. They also needed deliverance from themselves and hubris, the native tendency in human beings to want to be gods and to hold themselves up, above and over others, subjecting others to their desires as if they were nothing more than sheep.

But sheeps’ lives matter. And dogs’. And kittens’ – even minnows. That’s the meaning of the manger—not just that there was no room at the inn, but that God was happy, perhaps even happier, to be born amongst the animals than among humans. To show humans their proper place, their equality with the rest of Creation. I’m still waiting for the manger’s message to take hold.

Trudy Wischemann is a fly-by-night theologian who watches the dark winter sky in Lindsay. You can send her your angel sightings c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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