The Reason for the Season
I’m done falling down, Joe thought. His vision swam and he crouched low to keep from falling. But he didn’t fall. The ground under him eased into focus and he was standing on a bright sidewalk. He heard whooshing sounds, almost like cars on wet pavement, but not quite. He slowly raised his head and looked around.
He was in a city. Spaced far apart, gleaming buildings of steel and glass towered into the sky, pyramid shaped, rounded, and other unbelievable shaped that seemed to defy gravity. Between the skyscrapers were lower buildings in the same artistic designs with pedestrian bridges connecting them.
And there were flying vehicles. Lines of them were all over the sky moving at different speeds, the higher the faster. The vehicles looked to be cars, trucks, busses and even tiny things that might be motorcycles.
Close to Joe was what appeared to be a landing area where flying cars touched down and crept along the ground. Across the road from him was an expanse of flat green grass with people walking or sitting on benches or under trees.
“Fascinating,” said a voice next to him. “Is it not?”
Joe had felt too dazzled by what he saw to feel surprised by his host-ghost sneaking up next to him. But when he turned and looked, he was astounded.
Standing next to him was a full sized version of the robot he had seen in the nativity display. It was a human shape, but made of some shining silvery metal. The robot stood almost a foot taller than Joe with luminous eyes that flashed red and green.
“Greetings Joe,” the robot said. “I am Roger, the Christmas Robot.”
Joe stared. He tried to think of something, anything to say. His idea that this was some dying hallucination was harder to believe. Maybe this was heaven now?
“Where am I?” he was able to say in a small voice.
“You are in Alpha City,” the robot said, not quite in a monotone. “The Anchor City of the West Coast of what was once called North America.”
Joe watched a group of kids go by on flying skateboards. Each wore a helmet with antennae.
“When is this?” Joe asked. “How far in the future is this?”
“Let us say that this is the twenty-third century.”
Joe kept looking around. The air felt almost as clean as it had on the ancient hillside. People walked past him, in and out of nearby buildings. No-one seemed frantic or stressed.
“Roger,” Joe said. “Is it Christmas?”
“Negative,” the robot said. “The holiday is no longer observed.”
Joe felt his heart sink. “Why?” he asked.
“Hunger and disease have been eradicated,” Roger explained. “The human population has all of their needs met. They no longer have the need for the belief in a higher power.”
“Oh no,” Joe said. Then he looked at the robot. “So wait, why are you a Christmas Robot?”
Roger’s head spun completely around and looked back at Joe. “I was manufactured to greet you here,” he said. “I am your host, do you not remember?”
“So,” Joe said. “There isn’t any Christmas in the future?”
Roger didn’t say anything. Joe kept looking at the robot, but it was quiet and still.
“Roger?” Joe said.
“Do you like the future?” the robot asked.
Joe looked up and for the first time, noticed that there were people flying in jet-packs. Four people flew low overhead and one of them, a little girl, waved. Joe raised his hand in a feeble wave.
“It’s pretty cool,” Joe said. “With no diseases or hunger. But no Christmas?”
“Do you not feel that is an adequate trade-off?” the robot said. “No more pain and suffering, people are happy and content.”
Joe walked to a bench and stood looking at it. It looked like it was made of bubble wrap.
“I don’t know,” he said. “No-one believes in God anymore? What kind of future is that?” He turned and sit on the bench and whooped in surprise as he found himself sitting on the ground.
“Joe,” the robot said. “Can you not be taken anywhere without falling to the ground?”
“I was just,” Joe said. “What happened to the bench?”
“It is not there.”
“I can see that now,” Joe said. “What kind of future has disappearing seats?”
Roger moved to Joe and extended a metal hand. “Nothing here is real,” he said.
Joe reached for the robot’s hand and missed. His hand passed through the metal hand. He looked up at the robot, and then at everything around him.
“Nothing here is real? But back at the mall I drank coffee.”
“The present is real Joe,” said Roger. “But the future does not exist.”
Joe got to his feet. “So what’s all this?” he asked, gesturing around.
The robot followed Joe’s pointing. “It is but a vision of what you think the future might be like,” he said. “But no-one knows what might happen years from now. Humans can only speculate what the future may be like. But no-one truly knows. Whether or not there will be jet-packs and flying cars in a shining future or global Armageddon, we do not know.”
Joe looked at the flying cars. This had been what he thought the future might look like. But it wasn’t definite.
“So this might not happen?” he asked.
“Difficult to see,” the robot said and its eyes flashed bright green. “Always in motion is the future.”
Joe blinked at Roger. “But what does this have to do with the meaning of Christmas?” he said.
“The reason for the season Joe,” Roger said and pointed with both hands. “It is still here.”
The reason for the season. Joe nodded. “They can refuse to believe, but Jesus is still here?”
“Joe, stop saying that Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Joe took in a gasp of air. He was back on the bridge. The future city was gone and it was night again. His nose started running with the cold air. He looked around for who had spoken. He had recognized the voice.