I have mixed emotions about Christmas. I used to go “all out” when our children were young. I would scare our family by shrieking when I saw elves peaking in the windows making sure the children were being nice. Usually about four sightings each year would cause our kids and Dan to scream and fall down in fear. It was fabulous.
I was a Santa fanatic and almost stood up during a preacher’s sermon and stomped out of the service with our five year old when he mentioned that Santa was not real. Tears of fury shot out of my eyes, “how dare him!” Thankfully, my daughter had not been listening. I was the patron saint of Santa and self-righteously obnoxious. I liked the anticipation of joy on steroids because of St. Nicholas who came down a chimney. My vision is more far reaching than it once was.
A few years ago I had the privilege of standing on a street corner in Seattle each Friday night to offer hope and care to the prostituted youth in our city. Our team of four or five women bundled up and offered hot chocolate, baked goods, a small heater and condoms to women 25 years and younger. We did it in the name of Jesus. If they wanted prayer, we prayed. If they were fearful of violent “Johns” or pimps we shielded them and allowed them to sit in our van.
Some of the police and undercover cops told us we were crazy to stand where violence was nearly certain. We did little but show up and “be” there until two-thirty in the morning. I may never know if any one was transformed by our gifts, but it changed my life. I will never be the same. One of the most important gifts I was given was to experience our common humanity. I am a suburban mom who used to go nuts at Christmas. I want my children to have a far better life than mine. I love surprise and want my children to be caught up in the goodness of the gifts of God.
Their hopes were the same as mine. Their dreams included lavish gifts for their children amidst the surprise of Christmas morning. As obvious as it might be, none of them hoped their daughters would follow them to the streets one day. And even more we are more alike in our shame and sexual struggles, our heartache and fears. We are human. And we long to be able to bless what it means to be more human.
When I read Luke 2 and picture the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds tending their flocks I think of these girls and young women. The shepherds were a crew that worked at night and were shunned by most. There is something about night work in a dangerous world that leads most people to give them a wide berth. They are not like us who go to bed early, rise to industrious lives, obey the rules, and receive the just reward for our labor.
It may seem crazy but my fanaticism to protect the innocence of Santa and his magical elves was fueled by the fantasy of making a life for my children where the dark realities of the night were swept away and magically erased. On one hand it is a laudable desire and on the other it is the basis of the division between the suburbs and the inner city.
I like to think of our girls walking next to the shepherds who have been told to follow the star. I like to think of that preacher who broke my heart with his pompous preaching one Sunday morning coming as well. Yes, I, a self-righteous, suburban fanatic would be with them too. We would all get to that shabby, smelly stable and bow before baby Jesus, our Savior Christ the Lord. And we would all get to hear a great company of heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
I want that reality, not make believe elves, to be what floors my husband and children. Until we are all at his feet, I will wrap presents, sing carols, bake Christmas bread and listen for the sound of mewing lambs and the percussion of stiletto high heels tapping out their sad song. The star leads us all to the same manger, hope, and gift. It brings our humanity to the cradle of our desire—lo and behold, our Redeemer.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 36 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!