I’ve been tracking with all of the Christmas preparations back in America via facebook and various websites and blogs. I don’t know if it’s just the people I’m following or if the country as a whole is really as high-strung as it seems. If I had to choose one word to describe the general vibe I’m getting about the holidays right now, it would be “survival.” Ten tips for surviving Christmas this year. How to save money these holidays and (maybe) save your mind. Christmas for those who are just making it through. Brimming not with joy and cheer so much as armor and strategy and steel wool.
I do understand. I’ve shed a few tears in the last week myself. Not because of “holiday stress” or anything remotely related to the self-induced frenzie that so many people endure for the sake of cookies and presents and what have you. Instead, I’ve been crying over being sick, over the fever and the barf bucket and the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes threatening again and again. I’ve been pining for an escape – a warm bath, clean toes and carpet and a mommy to tuck me in and bring me sprite. I’ve been mourning the forced end of my nursing relationship with Bronwyn and this new identity crisis as our mother-daughter relationship has suddenly changed.
Sitting, typing, slowly eating a pear and sipping tart juice, devising a strategy against this bush that’s trying to kill me, trying to decide if we can still pull off our Christmas programs with truncated preparation… I too feel like I’m more or less just surviving.
If I take my cues from the internet, my life-strategy would be to fake my way through, perform my way to perceived perfection, fix my eyes on the deadlines and make it happen, dag nabbit. But something about that just doesn’t feel right. In New York, we always used to comment that Christmas day needed just enough snow to cover the mucky mud and make things look pretty. A blanket of white to give the appearance of pristine and flawless, helping us forget that the ground underneath is an unsightly mess. Given the status updates about pulling Christmas off, it would almost seem that the desire for a winter-wonderland is little more than a projection of many a heart’s desire to appear perfect; the dreaming of a white Christmas is a way of longing for the muck in our own lives to be covered over.
Considering that Jesus will not likely get a birthday cake in our house this year, and I will be coming out of my mosquito net only in between showings of The Nativity at the LRC, and I’m blinking tears every time I look at my baby, I’d have to confess that yes, I wish it would just snow and cover over my own muck. But as I look outside, the lush green grass whispers to me, “it aint gonna happen.”
Trying to put some strength back in my legs the other day, I hauled myself up to the upper field to see the maize. Having just been planted, it’s yet tiny and vulnerable and only the beginning of something productive. I looked at my feet, mud slicked as is inevitable this time of year. My life is a metaphorical mud pit, I whispered, not complaining so much as stating the obvious. And in one of those grace moments where the Spirit prays for us, looking out across the maize, I uttered again. Out of that mud comes new life. A persistent theme for me of late, trying to remember that it’s the yucky, the uncomfortable, the unpleasant, the down and dirty hard stuff of life that provides the hearty soil for life transformation. Frozen and white are beautiful really only to gaze upon, a romantic sham that is actually infertile, waiting for the melting and mud and yuck to return so fruit can sprout once more.
There is no better time than at Christmas to remember to remember that Jesus came to join us in the muck, not covering over it with a temporary blanket of white, but by burying himself as seed in the dirt, only to push out again and display for us newness of life.
For the maize growers of Zambia, Christmas time is teeming with the promise Christ. Emmanuel, God with us is written on every stalk, every rain drop – every heap of mud. Here we can see it, and smell it, and somehow? Somehow it makes the malaria and the slapped together programs and the forced weaning… hopeful. It’s not pretty, and I drop tears even as I type and remember. But the maize flutters gently and the still small voice whispers Merry Christmas once more.
Merry Christmas from Choshen Farm.