She stands alone on a dark sidewalk, snow falling. She stares, captivated by a scene framed in the window. A family gathers. She can see the love that binds them, as real and palpable as the wind that cuts through her old and torn clothing. She wonders if she will ever be home. She lingers on the outside, looking in.
Jedd, my son, also stands on the outside, watching.
A turkey adorns the center of the table, perfectly browned and crowned with oranges, star fruit, and kiwi – a bounty of color and exquisite scents. Sweet potatoes, stuffing, beans, mashed potatoes, salads, and cranberries crowd the star attraction, rimmed by green plates waiting to be laden. Warmth and laughter circle the table. A family, glimmering in holiday finery, bows to pray.
Glaring at his brothers’ backs, emotion swells in Jedd’s heart like a black cloud, then thunders across his face.
Our family of six gathered moments before with eight other extras and singer Stephanie Pauline for a music video shoot of her new Christmas song, Born to Save. At the table in the heart of the Victorian house, ten lavish place settings waited. With eight extras settled, the videographer requested two of our three boys to take the last two seats. But, how to choose? The group laughed awkwardly. Someone suggested that our daughter pick. The situation unfolded rapidly, and before my husband and I realized what was happening, Jedd was the brother not chosen.
At first I thought maybe it would be okay with Jedd. When I originally asked the boys about helping with the video, Jacob agreed in his usual easygoing, ready-for-anything attitude. Justin said, “There’s free food, right? Ok.” Jedd replied, “No way.”
I watch helplessly as the scowl on Jedd’s face intensifies. Suddenly, I know this is about far more than the video shoot. This is that deep, old wound inflicted before conscious thought. This is the subconscious memory of a newborn baby, thrust into a world with no waiting arms to welcome him. This is the primal wound of the outsider, the forgotten, and abandoned.
Amidst the bustle of filming and a crowded room, I can’t think of anything to do except pray. Finally, Jedd can stand it no longer and flees the room.
I follow and slip my arm around his shoulders. Whispering, I acknowledge his hurt. But still I don’t know what to do except to tell Jesus that this whole situation is absolutely ridiculous! This is the exact opposite of what the whole project is about! The song and video, Born to Save, is all about the outsider being invited in. As the story unfolds, the homeless girl watching from the sidewalk will be welcomed in to join the family. This turn of events for Jedd is twisted and ludicrous; and I tell Jesus He simply has to fix it!
The filming in the dining room wraps up, and at least we can now reach the kitchen on the other side to load a plate of food for Jedd. But he is still so sad.
Then the videographer requests Jedd, my husband, and me to come to the living room to shoot a scene. We settle side-by-side, and the baby who represents Jesus is placed in my arms. In a moment of certain divine inspiration, the director asks me to place the baby in Jedd’s arms. The final video captures that magic moment. Jedd’s face lights up as he cradles the little bundle.
Then and there, I know that the whole situation is far more than bad luck or nasty coincidence, far more than twisted irony.
On a late October evening, at a music video shoot, Christmas arrives early.
Later, I tenderly ask Jedd how he felt when he wasn’t chosen, what his emotions were as he watched from the outside. Haltingly, he verbalizes those awful wounds that go all the way back to when he was a baby crying in an orphanage, and no one came. I apologize for not intervening in the situation from the beginning, for not realizing until it was too late. Then I ask him if there is anything good that came out of the situation. I know my answer; but I want to be sure it is his, and not just me pushing my own meaning onto something that isn’t true in his own heart. He is quiet and thoughtful for a few moments, and then he replies with shy delight spreading like a sunrise across his face, “I got to hold the baby.”
I want to jump up and down in celebration! I want to dance and shout, but I maintain the decorum necessary to not embarrass a 13-year-old boy. My heart can hardly contain the joy as I affirm, “YES and not just any baby, but the baby who represents Jesus! Jesus picked YOU to be the one to hold him in the video! You are not the abandoned, the outsider, Jedd. You are chosen!”
And that is the magic, the mystery of Christmas.
A great, holy God bending near to earth, born in a manger because there was no room for him anywhere else. A God who willingly placed himself on the outside so we can be counted in. A God who sees and chooses the one young boy in a crowded video shoot who most needs to know that the lies inserted in his heart at birth are not his true identity. A God who welcomes the stranger, the outcast, the abandoned.
A God who came for you and me.
I invite you to take a moment to watch this video of a song that is stunning in its own right; and that is also, for our family, the mystery of Christmas made visible: