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All Glory to the Great Turtle God

I was out in my neighbor’s front yard helping Ronnie, Stevie’s father, put up Christmas lights on his roof. My job was to detangle the strands of lights as they came out of the plastic storage box, before hoisting them up to Ronnie for installation.

I’m surprised I got the job, because I’m certain that Ronnie can see my garden hose from atop his roof. That birds’ nest of extruded green synthetic rubber is hardly a positive testimony to my detangling skills.

Nevertheless, I was there, reverse engineering all the knots listed in my old Boy Scout Hand-book, when Stevie’s little brother showed up under my feet. Sebastian — or “Sebby,” as they call him –– is nothing like his older brother.

He’s normal.

Brother Sebby is about 4 years old. I always marvel that Sebastian even exists. One would think that after living four years with Stevie, Ronnie and Kaity would never want another child. It just shows you how much love these people have for each other that they would want to give it another try.

Four years would be enough for me. The minimum sentence, by the way, for carjacking is also four years. I think that’s meaningful.

After a barrage of ‘whatcha-doin’-theres,” and the fourteen follow-up “why” questions from Sebby, I finally was able to deflect the lad onto a subject that I thought would give me some control over the conversation.

“Do you like Christmas, Sebby?” I asked.

“Yes. Yes. I love Christmas!” he replied exuberantly, bouncing lightly as he spoke.

“What part do you like most about Christmas?” I asked.

“I like the Turtle God the most,” he said, after thinking hard.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot of versions of the Christmas story through the years, but in not a single one do I remember hearing anything about a role played by a marine reptile. My brother, Ben, has a turtle. Even though Spike is really cool, Christmas has never crossed my mind in his presence.

Nevertheless, Sebby was convinced.

Equating my bewilderment to my understanding of what myrrh is, I asked, “The Turtle God, Sebby?”

“Yes. He’s the reason we have Christmas,” he said proudly.

After convincing Sebby that I was going to need more information to completely understand, he said this:

“We learned about it in Sunday School. Our teacher taught us a prayer. It goes like this,” he said, while clasping his small hands.

“‘Jesus, we love that you were born with the animals in the manger. We love that Mary and Joseph loved you, and we love that you, ye Turtle God, loved us so much that you sent baby Jesus to love us.’”

Ronnie and I just stared at each other. Sure, this was a teaching moment. But there would be time later to explain the word “eternal” to Sebby. This was our opportunity to learn from a 4-year-old boy.

Sebby’s God in his Christmas story might be a lot like the one familiar to the rest of us. We are not easy people to love. Like that turtle, maybe God really had to stick his neck out, for us to understand true love.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.