Christmas is all happening and I personally love it. I am quite purposeful and get very intentional about Christmas, not to do too much or pick up on the craziness of christmas…I slow down my schedule and do less than most. I have less extended family around and less activity so it is an easy choice. I want to actually enjoy this part of the season. The making room in my heart’ for Christmas is really important to me, and therefore my family.
One of the stress free choices we make as a family, is to ensure our Christmas shopping is finished by the end of October. It is not easy in the busyness of life but with a husband who loves shopping and a wife who loves wrapping, it works. This means late night shopping still happens but rarely because I have gifts to buy. That is..until this year…for many reasons we just didn’t get any shopping done until last week, and I’m still going. It’s crazy enough with the crazy number of end of year dates and appointments, sermon prep, the normal every day stuff like the washing, preparing 3 meals a day and then kids home, and everyday ministry stuff and you have on your hands a crazy lady!!!! But add to that Christmas shopping for what seems 1000 people and having to put thought into each one…. I found myself telling Steve one night last week, that taking our family to the beach for the evening was out of the question because giving was on my mind. Ironic that my motive of generosity was stealing my joy and robbing my family of me being present. just the thought of adding space and time and presence and me into the evening seemed too much. I was already the crazy lady trying hard to be the perfect mum until being mum required more of me than I could give. I had to stop…and revisit my attitude. It wasn’t generosity driving my mood… It was my perfectionism and ‘to do’ list that would not get done by anyone else. I have to let go of my perfectionism (disguised as generosity) and my ‘need to impress people who don’t care’. Christmas is not meant to leave a bitter taste in my mouth and the rest of my family or others shouldn’t be left with that taste either. Those who encounter me should smell the fragrance of frankincense but instead they are tasting concern, grief and bitterness, business, absence and frustration with a hint of gingerbread and mince pies to add to the flavour.
When did Christmas become ‘call me Mara’ season!!!
For many, it is way more serious than just the shopping…it can be family stuff going on, financial pressure and backdrop of a difficult year, loss, crisis …whatever leaves us bitter can cloud the grace on offer. I get that I sound self absorbed, especially when other are dealing with real life crisis not just a host of pressies to wrap.
With these thoughts in my heart, I’ve slowed down and re-visited again my reason for Christmas. I want the Holy Spirit to help me see the Christmas story in the pages of Ruth and the verses that I am reading. Today that happened ….
The women of Bethlehem: what were they doing when Naomi and Ruth appeared on the scene…how did they find out she was there? Were they at the city gate or the market or in the street near where they entered? did they hear voices or see faces or did just one of the and news spread? Was it early morning or the bustle after the midday siesta? Did Naomi ask a question or did someone recognise her voice? You can paint the picture and create your own story because there is gap…they kept going on the road to Bethlehem and then we get to a part where the women recognised Naomi…
Bethlehem was familiar with visitors and travellers. It was known as the house of bread and visitors would often call in to get supplies and provisions. It was not a large town and everyone was in everyone else’s business. As these woman looks at these two travellers, pssibly still wearing mourning clothes of widow, something about Naomi grabs their attention. She has aged and maybe life has written itself in the lines in her face but theres enough about her to recognise and the call goes out across the market. She has a younger woman with her instead of her grown up boys…maybe that is what threw them off recognition. We have a cackle of women gather around them and quickly question…’is this Naomi?’
Naomi spits out this response…do not call me Naomi, call me Mara…for I went out full but have returned empty.
I can not help but feel the contrast between Naomi and Mary.
Mary arrives in Bethlehem and there is no room in the inn because it is full. She arrives fully pregnant and full of hope, weary but the story unfold with the arrival of the son of God and the arrival of shepherds to fill the stable with tier presence and their praise. The skies would have filled with the light of the Angels and the sound of the Angels ringing out across the valleys. The Christmas story..full of joy and expectation.
On arrival into Bethlehem, Naomi’s story is one of emptiness, bitterness and grief. The heavens are seemingly dark and silent. Perspective was Naomi’s reality. She could see no grace, and her story was empty of promise. yet our perspective is the whole story..we know that Mary’s story is a part of Naomi’s story and God re-writing her story with the eternal plan of salvation and redemption and the story of nativity and Christmas written into her story.
Naomi left Bethlehem in a time of famine but she recalls only that she left full and now emptiness and disappointment and out-of-her depth grief has been written across her life. Fullness for her was a husband and two sons, them married and her arms full of grandchildren. Now she has none of that and not even the potential for children of grandchildren, which was what gave women their identity. When my identity and fulfilment is based on what I don’t have and what I have lost I find myself losing sight of what I do have. I find I define my life and sense of wellbeing by what I have not rather than what is in my hand. Naomi could not see Ruth, as she responded, she could not see the plan and purpose of God about to u fold, she could not see the seed that would carry the promise of a Messiah, She could only see, feel, taste the waters of Mara- the bitterness of the waters of loss.
So many come out of christmas saying Christmas is about family yet it leaves thier mouth and heart empty and bitter. i don’t want my christmas to feel like a mara season.