Several years ago our friend, Erin McClellan, found out that I like the song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Don’t push on the reasons. I just like it.
Since Erin has a well-developed sense of humor, she gave me a plastic hippo that Christmas. I was delighted. Jody and I are generally light on the decorations, but we like to have a manger scene in the house. That year, as I recall, it centered around a clay manger scene I had picked up for Jody in Costa Rica.
Jody immediately put my hippo in the manger scene.
Inevitably, questions arose. To switch to active voice, visitors asked questions. “Why is there a hippo in your manger scene?” Some commented: “I’m pretty sure there were no hippos there on the first Christmas.”
Jody also produced the answer: “Because here, everyone is welcome. Nobody is out of place.”
I’ve used that illustration in sermons multiple times, usually accompanied by the manger scene with a hippo.
We often miss some of the messages that come with God appearing in a stable. Yes, everyone is welcome, but it’s the proud and the powerful that are unlikely to come. It’s the onlookers who usually question the ones who are there.
And each year, Erin gives me another hippo.
This year Erin brought me a ceramic hippo, and when I saw it my face lit up. We don’t have the manger scene, because Mo. Mo is our young cat. We have added a new word to our vocabulary — to Mo! Things that are Moed are no longer useful for their intended purpose. Mo is thorough. He loves little figures in a manger scene and removes them.
But in my mind the hippo has stood in for the manger scene. I can imagine it all around him. And as for Mo, he belongs too.
God is there with the lamb, the ox, the goat, and all the out-of-place hippos in the world. And with the young, rambunctious cats.