“Are you ready to have the perfect Christmas? No? Don’t worry, you are in good company. The first Christmas was hardly perfect, so maybe the mess and muddle of an imperfect Christmas is the best situation in which to welcome.” Roger Dawson SJ
As an oldest child in sibling order, I do not like messes. I feel calm when things are clean, tidy and in place. Paradoxically, as a collagist, a confusion of paper, paint and found objects are the tools of my trade. Yet the experience of Christmas – that holy culmination of all that is good – is expected to be pretty close to perfection.
Christmas Desk 2013 DS
I watched the movie “On Strike for Christmas” (2010) and it did my heart good. Why not strike if we have to pull off the perfect Christmas by ourselves? However, even with the family learning the lesson of helping and giving at Christmas, the ‘perfect’ Christmas came up short for me.
I have spent time this season oscillating between positively answering if I am ready for Christmas and the negative self-talk that goes with trying to bring order out of chaos. I am ready. My gifts were bought and wrapped early, the cards sent by (the soon to be extinct?) Canada Post or by e-cards. The house is as clean as it gets. Food is bought.
Christmas ‘Tree’ 2013 DS
Yet my complaints are there. My ‘tree’ is not a tree but a bouquet of branches easy to assemble. The beautiful white snow for Christmas Eve is now replaced with slush. People are not coming on the right days. Some people are missing. Someone sneezed on me yesterday. I could go on.
Over the month of December I told the story of Mary in the workshops. I read and discussed from the book of Luke. My presentation was enriched by having watched the movie “Mary” (Maria di Nazaret 2010) on Netflix. Mary, on close inspection, and contrary to the beauty of Christmas plays, must have had a very messy Christmas.
Things were definitely not as they ‘should’ have been. First of all, even though she was from a good family with a godly upbringing, she became pregnant without being married. Many women throughout history can attest to the grave difficulties that can bring. Case in point is the story of “Philomena” now playing in a theatre near you.
Mary had to face her fiancée, her family and her community alone. Mary could have been sent away or even stoned to death in that ancient culture. I am not sure that her reputation ever recovered.
Mary needed to travel on a donkey to a foreign country when she was almost due to deliver her child. (I can remember how painful a bumpy car ride was for me when I was pregnant.) The place where they thought they could stay turned them away in their hour of need.
All of this was discussed by the women in the December “Contemplation and Christmas Collage” workshop series. They remembered their own difficulties and fears in pregnancy and childbirth. They spoke that final workshop. One precious woman seated next to me ‘sang’ the requested carols with only sounds. That touched me and in a way validated my being there.
(Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.)
Before I left the collage workshop that last day we also recalled how the messiness of the First Christmas was energized by the Holy Spirit into a collage of great love come down. “God with us – Emmanuel” was his name. Mary’s story was filled with messages from angels. God’s provision kept her calm in her difficulties. The presence of Jesus brought the true meaning of Christmas. Only God’s order could make sense of that chaos.
It is always so. The messy Christmas that we all more or less experience is only truly made peaceful by not just the story of ‘God with us’ but by God’s very presence. May we notice the difference in our celebrations and in our disappointments that not being alone brings in Christmas 2013. A collage of love right now sounds good.
Christmas Still Life 2013 DS