On occasion, the questions were relentless. Whether I was sharing stories with my family, or explaining life in India to classmates in my doctoral class, I was invariably asked the same question: Did you live in a theater? Did you get into see free movies? Since this is a famous Indian city, did you ever run into any Bollywood stars?
In those days, before the internet and when trunk line calls were horribly expensive, and when postal mail was the only (albeit largely unreliable) means of communication, people seemed truly fascinated with my address. It was:
C-19/187-7-8 A, SBI, Fatima Road,
Behind IPS Cinema,
Varanasi 221010, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA
This address was remarkably precise in its imprecision. It denoted the approximate location of a branch of the State Bank of India, which had close to it, an old, shut-down movie house, called IPS Cinema. The idea was that if you got to the bank, looked up and looked around, you’d probably notice the theater. If you went on the road behind the theater, (which I don’t think was named), and asked local residents for a foreign Ph.D. student, there was a pretty good chance someone would know who I was.... And believe it or not, it seemed to work. But all of the friends who came to visit me, as well as family who wrote to me over the course of the two years I was there, were fascinated with my relationship to the Cinema, and seemed altogether disappointed to learn that I’d never set foot in the place. I told them, it’s not about the cinema! It was just a signpost to find me.
On this Christmas Eve, I invite one and all to join us as we seek to understand the meaning of the manger, and the animals, and the stable, and hopefully come to realize that these quaint bits of history were only signs to lead the shepherds to the right baby. Despite what mass advertising may have told you, Christmas is NOT about the manger or the stable or the oxen or sheep. It is about the baby! It is about God’s incarnation among us! It is about hope when hope seems lost, and about the primacy of love when love seems to take a back seat to self-interest.
~Rev. Dr. Luther Symons