Joe Hillbilly!

A few years ago I moved into a house in Chester, AR, a small town of 98 people. One day I went into our only grocery store, The Chester Mercantile.  A big bearded and gray old man was watching me closely and finally approached to ask “where’re you from young man?”. I said “I live on the mountains near Mr. Cluck.” He said, “You mean you live here in Chester”. I replied “Yep”. What’s your name? he continued. “Joe Hermit” I responded. He then looked at me with a grin on his face and said “There are no Hermits in Chester, Joe. All are hillbillies. And so from now on you are Joe Hillbilly”. I said, “Yes Sir”. So I am Joe Hillbilly from then on. They know me as Joe Hillbilly until it got big of 126 people.

When you drive through Chester everybody waves at you. The driver will wave to the passing by truck, car and bike. Everyone is everyone’s cousin. The cat in town had a name known to all and the dogs are the property of everyone.

If you ask for directions to the post office in Chester, they might tell you that it is across from where all the dogs gather and everybody knows what that means even though the dogs have been gone.
This is basically the story of the town of Jesus. Jesus was born to two simple people in a small town to our standards of today. Before he was born into this world there is a beautiful story explained in the Bible. Here is how it goes.

The Judean town in the hill country was home to Zachariah and Elizabeth. Not too many people liked to mingle with the hillbillies of the time as is now. So when Mary visited them it was like a feast in town. They all came to visit her specially to gossip about the pregnancy of an old woman in town, Elizabeth. Secondly to see who in the world is visiting Elizabeth. There must be something to this pregnancy they all thought.

But to Elizabeth Mary was a little girl who brought God. Presence and greeting of Mary was sufficient for the baby in her old age womb to leap for Joy. The company was sufficient and both enjoyed their “misfortunes” as the world would have said about it. Because one was “old” and the other was “Un-married”.

This is what this visit was all about. They did not judge, they did not assume. They simply enjoyed each other. Today when we celebrate Christmas no matter who is who, can we enjoy the company of the other?
The only thing Elizabeth had to tell Mary was, “blessed are you among women”, a word of praise of the child in the womb and admiration of the mother who allowed life.

Today we celebrate Christmas. Look around you. Can you say a word of admiration to your neighbor.  Regardless of what is going on in their lives, still are you able to say, “blessed are you among women or men or children”.

Christian spirituality is a very simple. Christian Theology is not a philosophy that needs a scientific mind to understand or logical process to live.

Christian life is contained in simple greeting of life. It is a non-judgmental blessing of life that one gives and the other receives. Look what Elizabeth does. She admires the life within Mary even though Elizabeth knew she is unmarried. The words of wisdom that comes out of Elizabeth is simple, “Et benedictus fructus ventris” meaning “Blessed is the fruit of your womb”.

Christian Life is the life of a small town people where one is acknowledged, accepted and welcomed.  Christian life is knowing who is that you are meeting with, and greeting who passes by. It is awareness of the other no matter how he or she looks or acts. For in him and her there is life created in fullness by God.
It is the sound of the greeting of Mary that made a baby in the womb to leap. It is the sound of you and me that will make someone leap today with Joy.  As you celebrate Christmas I want to you ponder do we allow God to leap within us? It only happens when we cause leap of life within someone else.

Merry Christmas and Blessing for a Blessed New Year. 

(C) Fr. Jos Tharakan | 2010

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