If it walks like a doctor and talks like a doctor… run away!


People whose entire identity is wrapped up around their accomplishments — run from them! I had my run in with one when I was in seminary in Indiana. During one particular summer, in order to fund my wife’s trip to Brazil, I worked for the college, cleaning toilets, mopping hallways, waxing floors. I was obviously not from Indiana and had a much more pronounced accent back then. I was also young so it would be easy to take me for a college student.

I found myself inside a certain female professor’s office, crouching on the ground, totally absorbed with cleaning her messy flo0r. It was Saturday morning and she came in without me noticing. When I looked up, there she was. I was embarrassed and tried to say something. I remembered the name on the door and blurted out, “Oh, you must be Mrs. Burns,” (not her real name). Without raising her head, she said, “Doctor Burns!”

I was impressed… I felt like saying, “Yes, Master, what is your wish?” And that was it, the first and only words she ever uttered in my presence, the last time I saw her, a lost opportunity perhaps to learn something from the human being slaving away at her feet. But even in the awkwardness of the moment, her face showed signs of pleasure that I was put in my place.

Now I may be hard-headed but I am not dumb. I got bitten once and decided I didn’t like it. So while visiting this big church in Wooster for the first time, I had been told that the guy who was going to introduce me to the congregation was a “doctor.”  Without hesitation, then, when he came walking down the aisle and sat next to me on the front pew, I turned to him and said, “You must be Doctor Plummer,” (not his real name). He looked at me in the eyes and said, “Just call me Jack,” (again, not his name).

To this day, “Jack” and his family are good friends with me and my family. Our friendship has spanned 27 years, we’ve seen our children grow up, we’ve encouraged each other, we have laughed and cried together. We’ve walked on a road that was paved that Sunday morning when he was willing to look at the human being sitting next to him and forgot about all the diplomas hanging on his wall.

Somehow, when I think of the idea of “Emanuel, God with us,” I think of the day I met “Jack.” But I magnify the circumstances by a bizillion percent. Jesus, who lived in perfect glory and pure light, decides to leave behind all his accolades, even some of His divine stuff, and comes down to live life among the filth of humanity. This would be like going from the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf-Astoria to the heart of the Garbage Dump in Cambodia. “God with us” simply became “Jesus.” “And they called him Jesus,” the text says. That’s it. But is that all?

“It’s insane,” some say. “No,” others protest, “it’s the greatest demonstration of love ever.” A shameful death turned into the greatest victory on the third day. And all for the sake of people like me, who keep stumbling over their rights and wrongs. And now the text says that he wants to be my friend. Not “Doctor Jesus,” but my friend, the lowly one of Bethlehem, tucked away by a corner in a cow troth. That still remains to me the most mysteriously fascinating thing about Christmas.

Ivanildo C. Trindade