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By John R. Wible
December 25, 2005
Twenty-Fifth Annual Christmas Poem
[Enter Chorus: ] T ums the world again, and East becomes West,
Night becomes Day, the waters . still and all is well.
“All is well. " So it was in Sophie's world that faithful Christmas until the winds of change began to
whisper just now perceptiblyk, “Wisdom comes. ” A Christmas party perfect- perfect like Sophie's world.
Sophie, the Woman of substance, well liked, well served and well placed. Her husband. owner of the mill
mled by her son. "Herf as in, "good things adhere to herj' and a dozen other synonyms and their relatives -
"adheredf like chalk adheres to a blackboard. " But blackboards have erasers, and her board was about to be
wiped clean, clean and black.
All opened perfect presents, Sophie's the most so. One. two. No. three. Three presents given to
Sophie: from her friends, an onyx peacock broach whose tail feathers were topaz and sapphires altemating
like winking eyes - a truly' wonderful piece; from her loving husband, and trusted son. a gold ring - a ring
without end - or so it would seem; and from her mother and father, a ruby-circled hand mirror in which she
could see herself - circled by rubies - and rightfullyi so for she was lovely. Rightly so - or so it would seem. A
perfect Christmas party - and then.
[Enter Chorust] T ums the world again. and East becomes West.
Night becomes Day. the waters still and all is well.
Bell's messenger called, "tum the switch on now, take a look. " There was concemed compliance from
Sophie as the "eye on the world" saw a tire at the mill, live and in colour. It's lost, it's all lost. But, who paid
the premiums and why not? The trusted son was not so trustworthy as all thought. It's lost as well. All - is -
"Can I trust no one, anguished Sophie? " “No one. " confirmed her husband. “No one and no thing can
be trusted again. Give him up to the men-at-arms and the broach and the ring to the creditors. " [No thing can
be kept long, either. ] "But l still have the mirror. " But does she? Does it still retlect perfcction circled with
rubies ~ or does it show the real Sophie?
[Nursing notes: ] Sophie does not eat or sleep. She stares. Hours become days - days become weeks. And the
ruby-circled cheeks lose their hue. Ruby becomes pallid . . . pallid becomes jaundice. Fifteen ips become
seven and a half . . . to three and a quaiter and the wheels slow down. Others care for her at State
expense. “Give up and die" is all her husband can now offer. “All the piety is Wasted, empty, hollow. "But I'll
never give up, " says Sophie. "I know some savior will come. This is not my destiny. I will once again rise
from this bed. " - A noble thought, but will it persist? Again her husband offers, “give up and die. " And this
time, Sophie wionders, should I really live? Should I have even been bom? ” And she utters for the n-teenth
time, “why me? "
[Enter Sophie's sorority sisters: Olive, Beth and Jimmie Nell. Companions, compatriots, comforters.
Comforters? Yes, comforters - wise women of the world, come to bring wisdom. Shock saddens them.
Words fail. They can bring no comfort -they bring only a pot of bronze mums. ]
After a time, Sister Olive, the Old One, offers a helpful platitude: “Perhaps God is judging you
because of some cri-ant way, some time when you failed Him - in a small way. of course, Sister Sophie. "
(“However, it must have been a great thingj' she thought to herself. ) “In a small way - reallyj' mocked
Sophie. "And have you seen such a thing in me? You've known me since we were girls. Is my destiny really
dependem upon my Conduct? I find no fault in me. Yet, why are there small circles under my eyes and a large
one on my back? "
Ever the Critical One, Sister Beth adds, that son of yours, there's the bringer of the blame that now
lies at the foot of this sick-bed. How far did that apple fall from its tree? This points to you, Sister Sophie.
Agree with me and God will be pleased.
"Sister, if you are right, then I - we - are all bound to fail. Is there faimess in that? Who will answer?
Will you, Beth - will you, God? Lastly, the Cheerie One, Sister Jimmie Nell weighs in. "We all know your
innate goodness, appeal to that, you can overcome if you desire it enough. ”
[And having delivered the bronze mums to the bedside table, the Three “Little Sisters of
Charity" go back to their lives - sad. Sad for Sister Sophie - but glad it wasn't them. ] The room does not
speak. The mums have said quite enough.
In the quiet, Sophie thought, “God, yes, He's come up a lot in this. God - WHERE ARE YOU,
GOD? Is it true all the "talking mums" said? Did I fail You, God? Am l to blame for another? Can I will my
way out of this calamity? Tell me, God. " - But God was silent. He wasn't on-call that night.
[Enter Chorusz] T ums the world again, and East becomes West.
Night becomes Day. the waters still and all is well.
Rev. lim, the Chaplain, has seen this repeat itself a hundred times before - maybe a thousand. He's
heard the question, it's always the same question - why me, Lord? He's not the real comforter ~ but he knows
Him. And he replaces the bronze mums with an Easter Lily. “Let's talk, Rev. Jim. I think it's time for some
answers. Don't I deserve some answers - straight answers?
“Why you, " interrupted Rev. Jim, "that's what you wanted to ask, wasn't it? Did you fail God.
directly or indirectlyv', so He's mad at you? Did He set you up to fail? Does He do this with every woman under
the sun? Where is the faimess in this? Can you will yourself out of this? Can you succeed by the 'power of
positive thinking? '- So many questions › not novel ones - but so many. "Rev. Jim took a breath.
"Look under the Easter lily and tell me what you see. " Sophie pondered a minute, this was an odd
way for a chaplain to bring comfort. But she looked and saw - “nothingf” “Nothingj” replied Rev. J im. "look
again, this time with _vou mind's eye. " Still nothing. "Then one more time, look through the windows of _vou
spirit" urged Rev. Jim in a voice as calm as Lake Genesseret at noonday after the storm - yet, as powerful.
"I see three presents wrapped as though under the Christmas tree at that perfect party so long ago, "
marveled Sophie, wondering where they had come from and why she had not seen them before. “And, for
whom are they destined , " asked Rev. J im in the voice that knew the answer but asked any way. Sophie
replied, "there is no name or label, are they for me? " "Are they, " repeated Rev. J im? "Who ovms the wild hare
in the wood? " "She who takes him, " answered back Sophie. " "Then they are for she who takes them? " Rev.
Jim nodded. And she took them.
[Enter Chorusz] Tiaras the world again. and East becomes West.
Night becomes Day. the waters still and a1¡ is well.
Sophie reached to open the first present, in elegant gold wrapping and ribbon fit for a King. But, it
was already opened. "I don't understandj' she said. And Rev. Jim replied, "it is the gift of life and the gift of
'why? ' You are alivre - still alive, and you have already asked 'why. "' So open another.
The second present was a pot-bellied clay jar with a long neck and crocked handle. lt
looked as though it could have come from lran a long time ago. As Sophie touched the jar, it
began to glow with an iridescence that seemed almost white-hot. Nevertheless, it was pleasantly
cool to the touch. Sophie grasped the bottle and billows of blue smoke began to erupt as though
from a volcano - only blue - blue like the fringe on the rabbi's prayer shawl. And the smoke
began to fill the room with itself wrapped in a fragrance that reminded Sophie of sandalwood.
Soon, Sophie felt within the smoke a presence unlike any she had ever felt before. She
thought herself the High Priest on the Day of Atonement in SoIomon's Temple and she knew that
she was in the very presence of God.
"What do you feel, Sophie? asked Rev, Jim after he let her revel in this presence a moment ~ a
moment taken out of time? "I feel as though I have reached out and touched the Face of God, " she replied in a
voice of calm amazement. "And what do you want to ask God nowJ' pressed Rev. J im? "I I must have had
some question) stammered Sophie, "but it seems that l have forgotten it. lt must not have been important. "
"That's rightj' reassured Rev. J im, “it wasn't important. In the presence of God, 'why me' is lost in the 'who
art thou, Lor f”
"Sophia" began Rev. Jim, all your life, you have lived in the presence of Sophie and even
amid all that which seemed 'perfect' you've been filled with wondering and doubt. .." "But, picked
up Sophie? in the white-hot presence of God all those doubts vanish into the blue smoke yielding
the smell of sandalwood, until all that's left is the 'peace, be still. ”
One last present - one more for Sophie, a new Sophie with a new perspective - a
Heavenly one. One more present that seemed almost anticlimactic. After all, when you've been
in the presence of God and seen things through His eyes, what else is really that important?
Even so, though she now saw things differently, she knew that she must go on and live out that
perspective in her life. ln fact, she wanted to.
The last present was an inviting-Iooklng amber-coloured liquid in a translucent box with
no perceptible way to open it. “Break it open and dip your fingers in it and rub them together. "
coaxed Rev. .lim. “lt is the Balm of Gilead that 'makes the wounded whole. ” She did - and it did.
Her finger tips began to glow and as they glowed, every ounce of pain and hurt began to be
absorbed by the healing oil. Gone was the sadness that had held her prisoner. Gone, too the
were feelings of loss and guilt, soothed away in the amber ooze.
And so it was on Christmas, that Sophie was healed and restored - healed in body, mind
and spirit and restored in perspective and restored in the Iongings of her heart. Wisdom came to
Sophie that Christmas - wisdom in viewing life through the eyes of God and then living out lifer in
the new perspective. Sophie realized that she no longer had to ask "why, " just "Who"
[Enter Chorusz] Turns the worid again, and East becomes West,
Night becomes Day, the waters still and all is well.
This is 25 years QfIÍhristmas poems. May you have the happiest afChristmases this year and may wisdom
come to you. Contact me ar «g, ¡4›'ib1e@mindspring. comf~.
John R. Vl/ ib/ e