I saw Jesus the other day. It was just before Christmas and he was walking across the Don River on the Queen Street bridge. He was wearing a red Santa hat, a blue bathrobe, and apparently nothing else. Despite the winter weather, he had sandals on his bare feet. In one hand he carried a wooden hockey stick, and in the other, a large hockey bag.

How did I know it was Jesus? Well, who else could it be, dressed like that on a cold December afternoon? I guess he thought the hockey gear would help him fit in up here - make him less conspicuous - but the blue robe and sandals were a dead giveaway. I was on the streetcar, headed in the opposite direction, so I couldn't talk to him or find out where he was going.

Because of the hockey gear I thought maybe he was going to the Moss Park arena. There is a mission right across the street from there. People gather outside, socializing and asking passers-by for money or cigarettes. It is a bit intimidating to walk by to the big dollar store next door, but the lure of cheap, China-made goods is usually stronger than the fear.

Yes, that would be the ideal place for Jesus to go. He wouldn't be intimidated. I can see him arriving there, setting down his hockey bag and raising his arms in the air, still grasping the hockey stick. The men wouldn't pay much attention at first. In the bathrobe and Santa hat, Jesus wouldn't look like a good bet for a coin or a smoke. But he would stand there, arms and hockey stick raised, and the men would be compelled to look at him.

"Come to me," he would say. "Hear me, that your souls shall live forever." The men would murmur uneasily. At first, they would think he was reading this from the sign above the mission, but something, some trick of the light, some aura, would make them wait for him to go on.

"The day of salvation has come to this house. I am the vine. You are the branches. Come to me and you will bring forth much fruit. You know that without me you can do nothing."

Some of the men would know this. They would know that they were at the mission because they hadn't brought forth much fruit lately. They would look at Jesus with interest.

And Jesus would continue, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man can come to my Father without me. I am the good shepherd, and you are my sheep."

The men would see now that the raised hockey stick looked very much like a shepherd's staff. "My sheep, hear my voice, and follow me. I will give you eternal life. You will never die, and no one can pluck you from my hand." This sounds so good that the men approach Jesus and invite him to join them for dinner.

"I would like that very much," Jesus would say. "What's on the menu tonight? As you know, man cannot live by bread alone."

The men would laugh and slap him on the back. One of them would pick up the hockey bag and they would all go inside to enjoy a hearty mission meal. Jesus would be happy that he had contributed to the lives of these men.

I am not a religious person, having been raised in the United Church of Canada. All I know about Jesus is what I was told there. I learned he was a gentle, pretty man, who felt that everyone deserved respect. I learned he wanted everyone to be well fed, even if he had only a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. He liked his feet to be clean and he was always running into people who were happy to wash them for him. He would never cast the first stone and he would turn the other cheek in a confrontation.

He had a soft heart. He felt sad when he saw the little sparrow fall. He suffered the little children to come onto him, which sounds bad, but really means he welcomed them to visit him. He loved his mother and helped her around the house. I even remember being told that he looked after his little brothers and sisters, but I have learned since that this is really hard to confirm.

Why Jesus would be in Toronto in a blue bathrobe and Santa hat, I don't know. Maybe he celebrates his birthday in different cities every year and it was our turn.

Still, it's nice to know he's out there. Helping people, looking out for their souls and hoping to show them the way to a fulfilled life. Even though I am not a believer, it made me happy to see him walking across the Don River on the Queen Street bridge.

Merry Christmas and happy birthday, Jesus. Keep up the good works.