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The Buddhist Madonna: A Christmas Miracle

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Many years ago, I worked as a chaplain at a large public hospital. Late one night, I received a message to get to the lobby immediately. Christmas was only a week away and I ran past a nativity scene stuck to the glass. Jumping down the steps, I felt like I just didn’t believe in all that bullshit anymore. Armed with multiple degrees, I felt like I was so far beyond the idea of miracles. My job was to tell the truth. When I finally arrived in the lobby, I found a large Vietnamese family circled around what appeared to be their matriarch lying in the floor. Seeking more information, I was told that she had a brain aneurysm and probably wasn’t going to make it. Someone also told me that she was Buddhist. While I was with the family, the doctors came to the room and told us the woman had no brain activity. Immediately, the children asked me to pray. Hesitant, I tried to offer a few good words. Though they were Buddhist, the kids pushed back and demanded a prayer “in the name of Jesus.” Approaching the bed, I placed my hand on her head and loudly demanded, “In the name of Jesus…you are healed.” The family thanked me. Although I knew she was going to die, I didn’t have the heart to pray more honestly. After my shift ended, I tried to forget about it. On Christmas, I got a phone call from a colleague telling me that the Buddhist woman just walked out of the hospital after making a miraculous recovery. Through it all, the woman credited a prayer from a young chaplain with saving her life. Dropping the phone in disbelief, I told God I would never fail to believe in the miraculous again. The Buddhist woman saved my faith.

 

Liberal Christians love to deconstruct around Christmas. I guess they don’t ever get the presents they wanted. From Jesus not being the reason for the season to the Bible being false on the birth narrative to Jesus not being God to Jesus not being real, I’ve heard it all at this time of the year. Most of the folks who put this shit out there think they’re doing us a favor. Truthfully, there is nothing more contrary to following God than a lack of imagination. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Hope is the only antidote in a world of deconstruction. Hope is about imagining and embracing the miraculous brilliance of the possible.

 

The Virgin Birth is a fairy tale. I hear it all the time. I’ve stopped engaging in these mutterings. I know that Mary carried and birthed God. I feel it deep down in my bones. Mary taught us how to believe in miracles. Mary taught us how to believe in the incarnations of God in our world. Mary taught us to believe. The Buddhist woman is the modern Mary for me. The Buddhist woman taught me how to believe in miracles. The Buddhist woman taught me to believe in the incarnation of God. The Buddhist woman taught me to believe. In that Christmas miracle many years ago, the woman became my Buddhist Madonna.

 

Amen.

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