If you follow my blog for low vision purposes, you may want to skip this blog and head over to my website; https://c-ur-able.co.za. The following article is my own view on the festive season in 2020. ..which supposedly was a year for perfect vision. Perhaps it was.
This year, as our family prepares to celebrate the festive season, I carry an unsettling misalignment between ‘peace on earth, good will to all men’ and the reality of the deep darkness, loss and hopelessness of living in an uncontrolled pandemic.
In our family tradition the preparation begins by creating an atmosphere of celebration by putting on an assortment of Christmas music at high volume – some religious carols and other broadway songs about decorations, snow and Santa Clause. I prepare the spicey pudding sauce to fill our home with aromatic memories of gathering family, gifts and feasting at the table.
The tree comes out of storage. The string of lights are the first on the branches, then the tinsel to reflect the light, then all kinds of perfect little gifts, shiny baubles, and stars get added to the branches. As I cannot see very well, the tree often has bare patches where my blind-spots are. The gaps I leave are kindly filled by others. Then the little Father Christmases get added. I love that Santa has no body image ‘hang ups” (even though I am hanging him up). His fat belly, wide belt and cozy red jacket; his full white beard and jolly chubby cheeks, make him the perfect symbol of a wise, comforting grandpa.
Lastly, I put the nativity scene under the evergreen tree – the babe (prophesied as the Bread of Heaven) lying in a wooden food trough surrounded by kings and peasants. I don’t know why the figurines of the parents don’t look as exhausted as they should be after that horrendous trek to Bethlehem (House of Bread). It is at this moment when I| remember my childhood confusion about going to church on Christmas day, which was always a fun family-time, but the highlight was getting home for gifts. I felt a little guilty that the occasion should be kept a bit more holy than my want of presents.
Back to the tree, the magic happens when we turn off the surrounding light so that the darkness makes the lights more visible. This is when I ‘saw’ the clash of the 2 trees against the darkness of living through 2020. A year of clarity.
You may wonder what the heck I am talking about. Aside: this article is now R rated. You may need to exit at this point, because my view may cause offence.
It is about the 2 trees. The Christmas tree and the wooden cross. linked by this pivotal verse from the law of Moses.
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God….” Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ESV (if you feel like an eye opening detour here, check out the writings of St Mark, verse 42 and 43 in chapter 15)
The reason for this curse was also because of 2 trees. The 2 trees in the garden of Eden. The tree of life and the tree of the ‘knowledge (light) of good and evil, naughty or nice, deserving or undeserving, both had fruit, like baubles hanging low for easy picking. Both were readily at hand and appealing to fill the hunger of mankind. In the story of this garden, the children walked and talked with their Father. He loved them so much that he said, “Eat from any tree of life, but don’t eat from that one, it’s not good for you”. Hmm, you know the saying is about curiosity and cats – well this also ended in trouble.
As a parent I know that love and trust is shown by allowing choices and supporting children as they live out the consequences of their chosen option. Love lets go, but tight control breeds rebellion. Unconditional love gives permission to be hurt. Adam and Eve were left to face the consequence of separation, isolation, economic hardship, pain and struggle and it really hurt their father. I am sure they had many ‘When we… stories’. Hindsight brought clarity and regret for their lost relationship and daily provision.
A perfect sinless person needed to take the punishment so that mankind could have this relationship of intimacy with the Creator restored. The only way back into this relationship was to go back to that place of picking and put the fruit back on the tree so that we can choose again. He had to be cursed, and the chosen portal was a tree – a dead wooden cross upon which was hung the first fruit of heaven, the light of the world, the ‘last Adam’, the one born to die, who we celebrate at this time. He was given gifts that would prophesy his life’s mission. The wealthy, clever Magi from the East gave him gold (for deity) frankincense ( the fragrance burnt at the altar) and Myrrh (the aromatic spice used for preparing a body for burial). The poor, outcast shepherds brought him a lamb, representing his future sacrifice for the atonement of sins.
This is where the similarities and opposites in these 2 Christmas stories converge for me. Spicy aroma of pudding sauce and incense at the altar, songs of ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all men’, versus, ‘ all I want …” – a fat clothed bearded grandpa verses a skinny, bone-protruding (Ps 22), belt-less, naked son in the prime of his life, whose beard had been pulled out, and forced to wear a crown of thorns to mock his deity. Both covered in red; both hung on a tree in a public place for all to see; both bringing free gifts; both bringing joy to the receiver; both including all nations, rich and poor. One of them gives conditional gifts, depending on whether you are naughty or nice; the other giving freely to the self- acknowledged undeserving. One eating cookies and drinking Coke (which according to the old advert, ‘adds life’), and the other eating the bread of affliction and the cup of suffering as represented in the Passover meal and communion in remembrance of the sacrifice. One being served by elves, the other being a servant to others. One came down a chimney to bring free gifts and eat alone, the other came up from a grave and broke bread with friends to bring life to those who choose to receive it. One returning annually at night, at a predicted time, the other returning at night when least expected. Both, creating expectation for those who come to them like ‘little children, believing in what they cannot see’.
Now when I look with my blindish eyes I see both trees in one, both reminding me of life and hope. And, in the music that stirs my heart today, is the voice of my heavenly Father singing, “ All I want for Christmas, is you!”
Many blessings for a meaningful Festive season with family and friends in physical or virtual space.