One year she suggested a theatre show put on by a travelling puppeteer group named Bread and Puppets.
Bread and Puppets is a long-standing troupe that thinks theatre should be an active process, a type of food for the soul, rather than a passive experience. Not only do they create fabulous puppets and promote a staunchly anti-war message, they also bake homemade bread that’s handed out after the show as a way of creating community.
I have no idea what the show’s theme was on that cold, winter night, but I remember having a sense of awe that people had invested their lives into creating something with great expression and imagination. I remember some of the visuals, the puppets, the staging, and, yes, the delicious bread!
I also remember that evening because as I purchased a piece art from their concession, a young artist came bounding up to me. I had chosen a piece of art he had created, and he was so excited that he couldn’t contain himself. The painting was a small black and white with a touch of red. It’s a portrait of a bedraggled St. Nick with a crown of thorns. Or is it Jesus with a big beard? I don’t know. The words, “Ho, ho ho!” run down the side. It’s dark. It’s ironic. It spoke to me. This tiny, wallet size painting on a scrap piece of corrugated cardboard held the angst I often feel about the two, entwined festivals we celebrate this month: Christmas as encouraged by consumer culture; and Christmas as the Incarnation of Christ (God in flesh appearing.)
I do not intend to suggest this image is the only or even the central imagine in my heart as I ponder my holiday shopping list. However, I find it challenges me to reconsider where I’m putting my time and money in the midst of such a frantic season. And, if I’m honest, I like this image because it’s not jolly. I’m not always jolly, not even at/for Christmas. And yet, every time I look upon this image, I laugh to myself. It warms my heart because I cannot separate the political and religious expression from my experience of the young man who created it. We have a shared ministry: we both hope and act for a more peace-filled world. Our connection, wrapped up in a tiny painting is a gift that keeps giving—it was and is bread for my journey.
May your bread be plentiful this Christmas season and always.
We have two types of puppet shows: good ones and bad ones, but all of them are for good and against evil. ” -Peter Schumann, Founder, Bread and Puppets