“…Even a map cannot show you
the way back to a place
that no longer exists.”
Sandra M. Castillo, “Christmas, 1970″
Last night, in LA, the rain came down hard.
I heard it for a long time, as I was having trouble sleeping, being worried about — well, everything.
It’s hard not to look back on the holidays, and remember happier times.
I was used to the routine: decorating a small tree for his room; and making my way up the coast with a plate of oatmeal cookies I’d made from my grandmother’s recipe for the aides and nurses who took care of him.
Now, there is emptiness.
Emptiness is not a bad thing, but there’s so much pressure this time of the year to fill it up — to react like the jazz musician who hasn’t learned that silence is part of the music, that it’s okay to let space go by, that listening is half of the art.
Lisa Marion, a writer friend, suggests getting rid of the Holiday shoulds. I don’t want to go to the parties, or decorate this year, but I need not feel guilty, if I read her correctly.
Possibly some of us need advent, the time of waiting, before the baby bursts into the world. We could wait until Christmas actually starts, on December 25, and celebrate the 12 days afterwards, she suggests.
This makes sense; there is something comforting about living by the liturgical year, the rhythms of grief and joy.
The only thing I’m sure I want to do is attend the midnight service at All Saints Church to hear the music, be with friends, and hear our new Rector, Mike Kinman, preach. He has a gift, and always manages to be both comforting and motivating at the same time. He has a bit of the holy madness, the sense of urgency, that characterized the prophets of old.
I was trying to explain to someone this week why many of us, especially people of color, Muslims, and women, feel vulnerable right now, and why we need space to grieve.
“Then go and have a good cry. Go to the crying room. Here is your Wambulance. What a waste of a life,” he said.
“You don’t think segments of our population are vulnerable?” I asked. “And whose life are you saying is a waste? Mine? Are you saying my life is a waste?” I asked.
If my life is a waste, then what did he think about Jesus, who spent his life loving and caring for the poor, the marginalized, hated Samaritans, social outcasts, and vulnerable women?
As I listened to the downpour last night, I finally gave up worrying, and “had a talk with God,” as Stevie Wonder put it.
In the morning, equilibrium returned, and a sense of clarity.
As I watched the gray sky turning to blue again, and the evergreens standing tall and open to air and the morning light, I realized something:
Christmas isn’t about what we’ve done in the past, it’s about what God is leading us to do now, for the future.
It’s about standing with the marginalized.
After all, It was to the marginalized, the shepherds living in the fields, that the message of hope first came.
The shepherds, as Drew Hart reminds us, were marginalized, not only by Rome (along with the rest of Israel), but, due to their low social status, they were marginalized by their own people.
And yet the good news of God’s revolution came to them.
The life-affirming message of “peace on earth and goodwill to all” came not to those with the most, but to those with the least.
As I ponder this, I notice that a red-throated hummingbird with tiny, flashing red wings has landed in the bare branches of a nearby tree. He looks like a shiny little Christmas ornament. He has filled up the emptiness with his dazzling beauty.
“We can feel sick at heart—we would be fools not to—but despair is not an option,” writes Robert Kuttner.