Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Clichés

Some people seem to think Christmas is for children - I'm realising that now I have one. It comes across in the comments people make, the excitement they project onto our first Christmas with a baby.

I understand it to a degree. Christmas, as it's been envisaged in recent times, is primarily child-centric. The Santa Claus and presents are best if you're little. Children bypass the cooking, the shopping, the family politics and everything else that can make the season difficult for adults. It's uncomplicated and magical. A fantasy.

But I don't celebrate that Christmas. The Christmas I celebrate is very much for adults. For grown-ups who stand at the edge of the transition into another year and wonder what on earth is ahead and how we will manage it. For the ones who are aware of the world we live in, the realities of shadow and fear, but resolve to live lives of love with calm, glad hearts anyway.

I celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. The great rescue mission to realign humanity with our best selves, to make us whole in all things and proclaim us loved for better or worse. And I celebrate the second advent, the one we don't talk about much. The Jesus who isn't meek and mild, a helpless babe. The Jesus who is Judge and King, Ancient of Days, returning victor, righting everything eternally.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Isaiah 9v6-7

We live in the in-between. The Christmas story is not over yet, and we are not forgotten. It's a hope that is so easy to overlook. But for those of us who see it, our celebration is year-long and better with every passing day.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Body Talk



We have mirrored cabinets in our bathroom. Their height on the wall perfectly positions them to give me a truncated shot of my torso as I step out over the side of the bath. This makes me sad.

I'm not going to lie - I miss my old body. I wish I didn't. I wish I wasn't that superficial and I don't say it out loud very often, and I don't let myself get sucked into all the post-pregnancy body fanaticism that's out there (and believe me, it's out there). I dress well and I'm thankful I can walk / sit / stand / lie-down in comfort again - for a while I wondered whether that was ever coming back. I'm grateful.

I tell myself it's temporary, even though I know some things will never go away. I tell myself it's a small price to pay, and I know that's true. And I count my blessings and pray for people with actual physical challenges, not cosmetic disappointments. But when I'm forced to be honest with myself, when the mirror reminds me of what I currently look like, I do still feel a little twinge. A little bit of self-pity for the sacrifices I have made.

The other day I was listening to some music in the bathroom. Truthfully, I was hiding out for a bit. Under the pretence of cleaning the bathroom and myself, I was going slow, snatching five minutes to refocus and pretending that I couldn't hear the wailing and the attempted soothing going on in the next room. I was listening to some music and the mirror thing happened and the little sad sense of loss came over me. And then I heard these lyrics:

"How wonderful
How glorious
My Saviour's scars
Victorious"

Jesus kept his scars. He is so proud of us and what we cost Him that in His brand new resurrected body - the ultimate upgrade - He kept the scars from the cross. I find that so hard to identify with. I'm so saturated in our culture of external "perfection" and appearances - I really struggle to work out the rationale behind that choice. But I think it maybe has something to do with value. 

My body talks. It tells a story now. If my body was a vintage coat the anecdotes in these imperfections would raise its value. My body has done something wonderful and come out the worse for it. But some scars are valuable reminders. Reminders of where we have been, what we have done, what we have conquered. And of our fragile, finite humanity and the gift we can give of ourselves to others while our time here lasts.
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