Friday, December 30, 2016

In-the-Between

Between Christmas and the New Year is mostly suspended animation. No school, warm temperatures and rowdy kids filling the streets, waiting in lines to return the things that don't fit quite right, filling our time with "fun family activities" while silently counting the days until school starts back up for the new semester.

The message of Christmas, I suppose, came mostly in an emptying, the swelling and birthing as an emptying of divinity for the sake of our souls. And yet, we have spent the season scurrying around doing the opposite. Filling our calendar and our trees and our stockings with all the things we think we need or mostly just want. We fill and fill, and I am sick to death of all the ways I stack things under the tree whose branches grow limp and needles pepper our floor with spikes. I am snappy and grouchy and my fingers itch with the impulse to buy more things for delivery right to my turquoise front door. Adam is out of town and I yell at my children, words I cannot even bear to repeat as I imagine the ways they have torn holes in Jayci’s soul. I apologize and she apologizes, and I fear the worst for all the brokenness that never gets hidden by all my doing and buying.

Cookies for neighbors, thank-you gifts for donors, and Christmas cards for everyone, complete with a smiling picture with Zack holding Jayci while Isaiah laughs, and Caden’s hair grows a touch too long over his eyes. Our life is full, we declare, and it is true; except I have forgotten the emptying. And I feel empty, but not the good kind. More like hollow. Like we only missed one Advent reading all season, which is somewhat of a miracle, and yet we may have missed the whole point.


We busy ourselves soliciting year-end donations we desperately need, and coordinating gift-giving for all the folks who have an abundance and feel charitable this time of the year; after all, we know intimately all the ones who have the need and so we straddle both worlds, us stretched thin between.

We bring the gifts to their apartment and I hope that no one notices the fancy Mercedes we park outside. You’re giving out gifts? someone yells, we need some too! I laugh and joke that these kid-clothes won’t fit her and sorry, before trudging up sagging steps and pushing open the door without a knob. And there are grand-kids and cousins bursting at the seams upstairs, leaving hand-prints on the walls while grease bubbles on the stove, and they want to know which gift is for them. There’s never going to be enough to fix the whole broken world.

Which, of course, is why we need the one who broke Himself to fix the world. The emptied womb to fill us all and save us all and forgive us all.

Christmas is already gone. Another year spent with the getting and giving and gifting, and we pack it all up to haul back into the attic in red and green plastic bins.

And so we will try in this new year to live differently, to start with the death and the emptying and live backwards to the birth and forwards to the resurrection simultaneously. We will make the kind of choices everyone calls crazy, because perhaps the thing we really need in a world gone mad is a different way of doing everything. To empty instead of fill; to say no instead of yes, and to say yes when instinct demands we say no.

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