In 2012, for one week in November, I checked the international ticker on CNN every couple of hours. Almost every day I’d find a story to click with an ensuing series of villages to look-up. I needed those coordinates so I could visualize just how close those villages were to Istanbul and just how close they were to Ankara. I was watching because that week, my mother was in Turkey offering care to some women who had never known a safe place to talk about abuse they had endured. Mom went to bring healing and hope to those women, and we all knew the risks.
There was much talk back then of the unrest along the Turkish border of Syria; unrest that has only escalated since. One of the stories I read that week was about a bombing at a wedding. CNN reported that act of violence had placed the country on high alert. I remember thinking of the celebration that day was intended to hold and the chaos it brought instead to the families of that small Turkish community.
The country felt like it was getting wrenched apart, and Mom had flown into the heart of it. Before leaving, she’d left two letters with my dad: one for each of my baby sisters. If something happened, Mom knew they would need very special words about why she, their source of nurture and safety, had thrust herself into the midst of a political nightmare.
In those letters, she wrote about what it means to bring hope to those who have none. She talked about good news, and how excited she was to share it. And she talked about how much she loved them. She said that sometimes good news costs a lot to share, and though the cost broke her heart, she still had to share it. People needed that news.
It turns out, my sisters never had to read those letters and my mom flew home after that week. But I still think about her words, and I think about that wedding that was bombed. I think about little girls in Turkey and Syria who have lost their mothers, not because they flew into danger but because they lived in it daily.
That week in November, I grew more connected to the world we live in. I personally acknowledged our political reality of oppression and terror and darkness. And I felt the cost of Christmas. What I mean by that is,
we forget that bringing a new kingdom to earth means upheaval and resistance. It requires saying “No!” to injustice so we can say “Yes!” to the hope of more. That is what Christmas is about—insurrection to death.
And so Christmas has consequences in our physical world. It did 2000 years ago, and in a world where Middle Eastern women are carrying unspoken abuse to their graves and a violent Arab front is subjugating people in terror, it still does today. How connected are you to the reality of Christmas? For you, maybe it is about combatting sex trafficking or demanding rights for socially responsible immigrants. Maybe it’s about breaking the cycle of poverty in your inner city. What kind of flesh and bone could you put on the Christmas message this season? What will you let the good news cost you to share?
This ad by Save the Children has run in homes around Great Britain; it places a British child in the kind of year that many Syrian children have lived over the last 12 months. I am convicted by the campaign’s choice to bring pain and death near in order to wake people up to its existence. Darkness surrounds us. That’s why we celebrate Christmas: because we still need it.
How will you wish the world a Merry Christmas this year?
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 25 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.