The bright white carpet in our rental highlighted the dirt strewn all over it by our 2-year-old Nick back in the late-eighties; it seems our efforts to decorate the large potted tree indoors had gone awry. All Nick wanted for Christmas was a sand box. All Annette and I wanted was to scrub the carpet to a respectable tan. We laughed in concord: ‘Life precedes order…’
I’ve lost some of that resilience over time. And patience. This year especially, I’m hell-bent on creating a cozy Christmas world that excludes real life. Blame it on COVID. Aging. My tendency to control what I cannot out there by doing what I can in here: clean. I take charge of dusting and floors and windows; I will polish and vacuum and spray daily if it means our Christmas tree and other decor sparkle to afford me a moment’s respite.
I’m getting weird. Or weirder. Jesus come quickly…
He sends new toddlers to expose my fragile world that cracks from dirty interruptions. Namely my grandkids--3-year-old Jacob (Nick-like), 2.5-year-old Camille (a smudge-fest), and year-old Lily (Cindy-Lou-Who on steroids). Over a course of a day together at our house, they exorcise me of persnickety demons.
Take last week. Please. Jacob walked quietly into the living room and proceeded to unwrap all the presents under the tree. Camille’s not as sneaky. She just has a penchant for pressing her face and outstretched unwashed hands on the bay window and making ‘smudge angels.’ Jesus (or His enemy) invited her to do so after I’d cleaned it thoroughly. While ‘helping’ to decorate the kids’ tree, Lily (see pic) proceeded to pluck and fling each bulb across the room. Finished, she went after the tree and tried to catapult it. More amused than shocked, Annette and I chuckled in tandem as we bound the tree to the wall with cord, hammer, and nail.
The other day, I was dusting (see?) our pretty nice nativity set on the hearth and noticed the ‘kid cost’ from Christmases past. The shepherd lost an arm, a wise man had his frankincense amputated. Jesus was fine. He just lay there in humble glory and invited me to worship Him. In all my mess. Our mess. For an unravelling world. That’s why He came. To order our lives His way as we adore Him in all our glorious disorder.
‘Our Christmas does not take us out of distress, the burdens of our life in the world; it does not take us to paradise. We too must return again, like the shepherds, back into the old conditions, with all the pressure that chafes us. But--only let the shepherd’s Christmas be given us if like them we can just hear and believe! The Savior is there! God’s hand rests again upon the world and will no longer let it go! The night is far spent, the day is already at hand! The glory of the world has already been taken from the prince of the world and laid on the shoulders of this child!’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament of Freedom. p. 454.