Somehow I thought the Christmas spirit was a force of nature. It was a spiritual tsunami that hit every year because of the power of the birth of the Messiah. How could the tides not roll toward wonder and worship? How could we not get caught up in the mystery of a little baby, the fulfillment of hundreds of years of prophecies and the hope for all mankind born in a manger?
As it turns out, if the malls and the grocery stores and the radio station aren’t playing Christmas carols and the houses don’t start to sprout festively coloured lights and the temperatures aren’t dropping …the Christmas spirit forgets to show up.
I saw it on the calendar. I knew the season was upon us and I made a few feeble attempts to drum it up. I treated it with the respect of a force of nature though, knowing that if I got too close the feeling of loneliness and separation from family and friends could wash me away.
I couldn’t help puzzle about the absence of it in my heart though and I must admit…I went another round with getting all theologically forensic. It’s like an involuntary reflex.
So I went down the dark road of, was it really a virgin birth? If not, what? An illegitimate teenage mistake? What about the star? The wise men? The angels and the shepherds? Is it a real story, or a myth? And if it’s a myth…if a lot of the things I used to believe as literal truth are myth then why am I still calling myself a christian? Was Jesus actually God? Like, there before the earth was formed, G-d? If not, what’s it all about? What’s any of it all about?
Oh ya baby, why not make a new Christmas tradition…International Torture Yourself With Existential Angst Day? It’s somewhere between the 8th and the 12th day of advent.
Troy, bless his heart, threw a life ring out to my floundering soul. We emailed back and forth a bit about it. He lives so comfortably with the tension and the mystery. I always think that I do, and then I backslide into the abyss of needing-to-know.
Troy talked about the holiday being bigger than the birth of Christ and that was ok for him and that for him, theologically, the anchor to hold onto for him was: There is a God that loves us and Jesus is really important, the Messiah even.
That stopped the downward trajectory of my mood and the general loss of Christmas for me. A knot in the end of the rope so to speak.
Now we’re in Sri Lanka, opting for vacationing rather than sitting at home missing children.
Sri Lanka is about 67% Buddhist and then Muslim, Christian and Hindu make up the rest. I’ve really enjoyed seeing monks around in their bright orange robes. I brighten up every time I see them. They seem especially set apart to bear peace and joy to all around them. I’ve also gained a great deal of respect for Muslims as I’ve gotten to know our neighbours who are diligent and devoted to their faith and who want to please Allah and do what’s right. They are loving and peaceful as well. I’ve taken them all very seriously and respectfully. And of course, I’ve wondered if there is greater truth in their religion than in mine. Ok – I said it. I can’t even help myself. Why must I do this?
Christmas eve was the worst of the family-friend-christmas-snow-hustle-bustle-missing-home moments. Somehow the anticipation of Christmas comes to a crescendo on Christmas eve day for me and I felt the weight of it as we skyped with our girls. Of course I was brave online but I’ll admit to one melt down and a lump in my throat for most of the day.
The anticipation, the last of the preparations quickly getting finished up and the long awaited time of celebration just hours away. Calls to loved ones, “merry Christmas”’s to everyone you pass by. The pressure and the power of love for everyone, the thoughts for peace on earth and joy to the world and all that is good and right all coming together like a tidal wave of love. It’s almost impossible to resist. Something in me started to unravel. All the theological wonderings and wanderings began to spin away and the power of the story, whether myth or fact, gripped my heart again. Love coming down to humanity, to be with us, to show us love and how to live in peace and to bring forth justice. A baby, the most humble human expression, the most vulnerable and innocent and pure, coming to get all down and dirty with us so that we might be whole and connected to Divine Love. Whether the truth is in the story or behind the story doesn’t seem that important to me today. It is the story I have loved, and it is a beautiful and powerful story of a God who loves us and it is a story I felt myself choosing to identify with in a more whole hearted way than I had in a long time.
The Sri Lankan’s in their broken english seem to have changed the word Christian to Christmas. Several of them have asked us “you are Buddha? or you are Christmas?”
I am Christmas.