Naked Nativity

a nude annunciation
The angels arrived naked just like
they looked in the old paintings but
it was cold in the nave of West
Main Street Presbyterian on the
night of December 9, 1978 so
they borrowed some frocks from the
shepherd boys and found some fake
wings in a costume bag and then they
were at least warmer if not more comfortable
although everybody else at the rehearsal
was quite startled and unnaturally wise
men and Mary were crying because when the
angels started singing there came light bursting
from their mouths and not just that but from
everywhere and the robes they had put on
ignited and burned away instantly but the
angels were not harmed in fact they grew in
size and strength until the sounds of their nudity
filled the nave in perfect forms and fifths and
the choir director and the organist ran
weeping down West Main Street into the
snow because the children had risen out of their
robes and sandals and were floating like
cherubs from the stained glass and smiling in
that kind of way that shines like the Star of the
East as they drifted in a halo around the angels until
they got to that part about the amen and the goosebumps and
as the voices stopped ringing the angels faded away and the
children lay sleeping in the pews uncovered and
when the pastor opened the sanctuary door and stepped
into the still warm afterglow he did not recognize
crisis as danger plus opportunity until his shirt began
to steam on the instant and his pants sparked oddly but
fizzled and he understood his proximity to the divine and
that the cross over that last threshold to the holy
miracle any time he wanted from that moment ever
after would be a simple epiphany of removing his clothes.

La Anunciación by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1660

 

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