“This is just wrong,” I mumbled as I stepped out of the store’s festive holiday glitter and into the lukewarm humidity of East Texas in mid-December. The Chipmunks chirped We Wish You a Merry Christmas over loudspeakers in the parking lot where teenagers in yellow rain slickers sold evergreen trees. Small bunches of live mistletoe could be purchased for a quarter apiece, and I decided to splurge. It grows wild in the south, a parasitic plant clinging high atop trees some entrepreneurial soul had mustered enough courage to climb.
It was 1980 and my first Christmas away from home in Manitoba where Christmas sounds, looks, and feels like it’s supposed to: the sharp crunch of snow underfoot, little kids bundled into snowsuits like overstuffed teddy bears, and wisps of white frost clinging to mustaches. Hubby was in university and we were expecting our first baby. With money tight, we’d agreed a trip home was not feasible. We would create our own holiday memories instead. We found a little artificial tree for three dollars at a garage sale and decorated it with one small strand of multicolored lights and a set of tiny wooden ornaments. Painted red and gold, the set included bells, Santas, skaters, rocking horses, angels, toy trains, and my favorite: a wee nativity scene. Made in China, the characters’ painted-on faces were Asian in appearance, reminding us of the universal nature of the holiday and how it didn’t really matter where we celebrated.
But as Christmas day approached, I grew melancholy. Thoughts turned to my siblings gathering at home, the coats piling up on Grandma’s bed, the homemade cabbage rolls and perogies being consumed, and the wild pandemonium of nieces and nephews tearing into their gifts. I pictured them enjoying it all while we sat in our dreary apartment with our Charlie Brown tree, exchanging practical gifts like socks and pencils. Though longing to set up a nursery, my nesting instinct was trumped by our empty bank account. I yearned for a little snow. Surely all of this was rationale for a pity party, and I zealously indulged.
Then, as Hubby read aloud the familiar words from Luke 2, I looked at my round tummy and thought of our coming child. I felt him move and I identified with Mary. She, too, found herself far from the familiar faces of home. The climate in Mary’s homeland of Israel was far more comparable to Texas than what felt like “proper Christmas weather” to me. The stable where she gave birth was anything but cozy and inviting. Not only did Mary have no nursery to decorate, she barely had a roof over her head! Yet her humble obedience resulted in the greatest gift ever given—the birth of Messiah. I’d been making it all about my own traditions and memories. Perhaps it was time to focus on the one whose arrival we celebrated, wherever we found ourselves and whatever the circumstances.
Each year, when I pull out those tiny wooden ornaments, I’m reminded of that lonely, long-ago Christmas and of the lessons learned. I recall how little we had, but how rich we were.
Let every heart prepare him room.
|Photo by G. Loewen Photography|