Tuesday, December 24, 2013
What would be left...?
One of my favorite writers, José María Olaizola, posted this on the webpage he oversees. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, I will translate it into English. For those of you who do speak Spanish, please forgive me for any mistakes I make in the translation...
¿Te imaginas una Navidad sin nieve, sin regalos, sin lotería, sin turrón, sin viajes, sin comidas familiares, sin vacaciones, sin musgo, sin árbol de navidad, sin luces en las calles, sin música de villancicos en altavoces y comercios, sin programación especial en la televisión, sin “amigo invisible”, sin gorros de Papa Noel –o ya puestos, sin Papa Noel, así en general, ni nada que nos lo recuerde–, sin recetas especiales, sin carreras de San Silvestre, sin cabalgata, sin discurso del rey, sin mazapán, sin anuncio de las burbujas, sin entrañables películas familiares, sin cotillón en nochevieja, sin publicidad de colonias, de juguetes y de muñecas, sin uvas, sin confeti, sin espumillón…?
Yo sí, me lo imagino. Y todo eso no es que me estorbe o me ayude. Algunas de esas cosas me gustan, otras me dan igual, y otras me estomagan. Es, tan solo, que la Navidad es otra cosa. Y a veces apena que se pierda eso otro, el misterio del Dios-con-nosotros, sepultado por un torbellino de imposiciones de temporada. Supongo que al final nos toca, a cada uno, pelear por defender la Navidad de todo lo que, sin serlo, viene con ella, para que no se nos pierda el niño en el laberinto de lo accesorio.
Can you imagine Christmas without snow, without gifts, without the lottery (The Christmas Lottery is a big deal in Spain), without turron (a special Spanish candy at this time of year), without trips, without family meals, without vacations, without moss, without a Christmas tree, without lights up in the streets, without Christmas carols on loudspeakers and commercials, without tv specials, without "Secret Santa," without Santa hats - or even Santa Claus in general or anything that reminds us of him - without special recipes, without the races of San Silvestre, without parades, without the King's speech (literally - the King of Spain giving a speech), without marzipan, without the champagne commercials, without intimate family videos, without New Year's Eve parties, without perfume, toy, and doll commercials, without the grapes, without the confetti, without tinsel...?
Me? I can imagine it. It's not that all that stuff either bothers or helps me. I like some of those things, some of them don't matter to me, and some of them make me angry. The thing is - Christmas is something else entirely. And sometimes the thing that Christmas is can get lost - the mystery of God-with-us gets buried by a whirlwind of seasonal impositions. I suppose that in the end, each of us has to fight to defend Christmas from everything that, without being Christmas, comes along with it so that The Baby is not lost in the labyrinth of the incidentals.
Today I baked two different kinds of cookies, made Go Go Mango Chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and coconut-mango rice for dessert for tonight's dinner, and I also started making the food we will eat tomorrow. I dusted, vacuumed, cleaned two bathrooms, ironed clothes, cleaned off the dining room table, put down placemats for tomorrow, and wrapped Christmas presents. It was a whirlwind of activities in way too short a period of time.
All the while, I managed to keep my mind on the real reason why I'm doing all this: The One who came to live among us and to die for us. The One who came to feed us, heal us and forgive us. To walk with us, talk to us, pray with us, and listen to us.
Just to be sure that we remember what this night is all about, we will head off to church in a couple of hours and attend the 11 pm candlelight Christmas Eve service. We will sing and listen to songs, we will pray and listen to prayers. We will take communion and remember the one whose birth and death gave us reason for hope and joy. We will welcome Christmas Day in the company of others who believe that The Holy Child of Bethlehem did indeed descend to us all those years ago.
What would be left if I didn't do all those things, make all those things, eat all those things, buy all those things, wrap all those things, and worry about all those things? For one thing, I would be a lot less tired than I am right now. Also, a lot more money would be left in our bank account. But more importantly, I would be more able to focus more intently and exclusively on The Baby born in the stable, born a child and yet a king. What would be left? Adoration, plain and simple. Peace and quietness. Rejoicing and gratitude. And the wonder of the newborn Savior wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in the manger.
Oh holy night, the night when Christ was born.
Oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas, my friends.