Here’s an unsurprising fact about Disney World: Mickey Mouse is everywhere.
Obvious? Sure. But I don’t think I fully appreciated how this played out in real life until our most recent trip.
Mickey served us breakfast, waved to us from parade floats, greeted us at multiple parks and served us dinner. He danced and sang, he MC-ed multiple events and he changed outfits for every single occasion. His imprint was everywhere — and, to hear my daughter describe it, the whole reason we were at Disney was to celebrate Mickey and Minnie’s anniversary. (That’s a five-year-old’s interpretation of the promotional materials for the 50th anniversary celebration of Disney World.)
And yet, my daughters never seemed surprised to see Mickey.
“Oh, he’s serving us dinner now and in his Christmas outfit! Take a picture!”
“Quick – wave to Mickey! His float is coming in the parade!”
“Wait – is that Mickey with ELSA?!?” (In this last example, Mickey quickly fades from importance and is replaced with a sudden desire to build a snowman.)
Disney does a great job ensuring there are never two Mickeys in the same place at the same time. But still – we just left him at the Magic Kingdom. How is he now in our hotel serving burgers? And wearing a chef’s outfit?
My daughters just grinned and ate it all up. When you’re at Disney, Mickey belongs everywhere, and it’s never a surprise to see him.
In the days leading up to Christmas, we waited for Jesus to be born; we waited to see him in the manger. We knew where he’d be and when he’d be there, and so, we waited and watched. And now, he’s here! I bet your church, like mine, has an infant Jesus snug in the hay of the Nativity scene.
Christmas has come – and so has Jesus the Christ.
But, if we only see Jesus in the Nativity scene, if we only expect him there, then I wonder if Christmas has truly occurred in our own inner lives.
Because here’s the thing: Jesus is in the kitchen wearing a chef’s hat and cooking dinner. Jesus is outside shoveling the snow. Jesus is stuck in traffic and delayed at the airport and trying to return a duplicate Christmas gift in the line of some store in the nearest mall.
Are we surprised by this? Are we surprised when we bump into Jesus wearing his Sunday finest and then suddenly see him an hour later in gym shorts and a hoodie? Or, do we grin and nod and take it all in, eat it all up?
Christ is everywhere, in all things. In each of us. In every inch of creation. And like bumping into Mickey at Disney, we should expect to bump into Jesus the Christ in every moment of our lives. We should meet Jesus as my daughters met Mickey: eager, excited, giggling. Because God knows that’s how Christ meets us.
That’s what Advent was building towards; that’s what Christmas brought us: We are reminded that in every thing, moment and person, we encounter Christ. And we should not be surprised – we should be delighted.
So, if you’re still surprised to see Jesus the Christ, or if you think he’s only hanging out in that manger, I encourage you to revisit the Christmas story. God desires to enter into human history and in so doing into our unique personal stories.
Don’t be surprised to find Christ there, here, now.
Eric A. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian.