Copper hot water bottle or foot warmer — better than anything for days like these …
There must be a vestige of primal matter in our DNA that responds with defensive measures at this, the nadir of our year, this darkest couple of weeks when, in our northern lands, the sun is up for such a short time and the cold can really soak into the stones and gravel we walk about on, and place our houses on. The slab under the house sucks out the heat from the bottoms of my feet, even through the downstairs carpet. The wood furniture is cold to the touch. The cat finds a high spot to curl up in and the dog likes to be next to my thigh or in my lap.
This year it takes some spunk to be merry. The house may be foreclosed soon. We may be moving in February or March, whether we want to or not. And where? My friend the landlady has gone through a winnowing all year long with some months being truly excruciating. Cliffhanging seems the right metaphor. But we will eventually know, and we will likely manage better than most people in the world, no matter how much we don’t like things about a move. This is not an easy Christmas for a lot of people in the USA. It’s 2010, and it has been a very tough year for anyone who is not already well heeled. There’s no work, high neediness, and a lot of people going bankrupt.
I always did think that Christmas was the sorrowful holiday, and Easter the joyful one. Turned around, isn’t it…we always think of birth being happy and death being sad. But not in This Case. The Who, Why and Where of the Christmas and Easter events make the difference.
I see animals in wet pastures here in the Pacific Northwest, standing sill with that rain slicked downward effect that makes you know they are cold and depressed. Even the occasional horse slicker doesn’t make them seem much happier. These are animals who would rather be in a warm barn, I think– aren’t their hoofs cold? And then I think of Mary and Joseph and their burden. Like animals, they were grateful to find a barn.
Any baby from any womb must at first find the world hard to bear–the cold of the air on the skin for the first time, and the unfamiliarity of loudness and arms and legs all akimbo. How much more difficult when the birthing room is in a barn with no particular pains made to stop up the holes in the roof or the corners or the spaces between the boards, and no insulation to keep the chill out. Like the animals sheltered there, the holy family must have appreciated the grassy bovine breath because it was at least warm. The animals huddle together and combine their body heat to make a center of comfort. It is into that slight warmth that our Savior came. This was not a four star hotel. But it was a shelter, and if it was good enough for God, then how can we complain?
Nothing we suffer can be anything like what Christ suffered.. even in his childhood, he had day to day experiences that were just as fraught with difficulties as some of our days are. Who knows how much more the suffering of man affected Christ than it affects us? We will possibly never know unless it is in the larger view of eternity when we shall know as we are known. I am supposing that Jesus hit his finger while hammering. Is that not a very normal part of learning carpentry? That we can relate to. But… the rest of it?
So why do I feel heavy at this time of year? I am not shopping much this time; rather I am sending love in other ways to my dear ones. One benefit is that I don’t have to listen to days and days of store music endlessly telling me to have a merry little Christmas. Another is that I don’t have to see the hysterically exhausted children in carts wailing their way through stores as Mommy relentlessly chooses toys. A nap would be the sweetest gift for that child. Sometimes what they get for their tired crying is a swat. This seems so wrong. I am glad for the quietude this year.
But I do like Christmas as a festive day. It reminds me of things–past Christmases when I was part of the stuff of making it a jolly time — those times comes back to mind and I smile, remembering the excitement and suspense. Funny that I remember more the times I made my parents laugh than when I made my children gleeful. And I remember times when tears arrived unexpectedly at joyful moments, as gifts from the giver of tears. And I think that those who recognize tears of joy are blessed by the sight of them too.
So it’s odd, isn’t it, that at the rock bottom of the year, just abreast of the winter solstice, we have this sparkly holiday when we purposely dress up in bright colors and put lights and tinsel on things and sing songs and hoist toddies and wish everyone Merry Merry! Is it an antidote for the dark days? We are healing ourselves, I think, and that is a healthy thing to do.
I am thinking right now that it’s our spiritual immune system coming to the rescue…blaring out the trumpets during the dead of winter…affirming what is the Good News in the face of a dreary time…saying what Hope there is for any who will believe.
I do believe. I am sitting cold in a chair right now, and looking forward to getting into a bed warmed with a nice hot water bottle. I am so very grateful for my hot water bottle. It is a copper one, made in England where there was no central heating for most until recent decades, and so it holds and shares the heat, like the oxen in the barn. I am hoping that the cuddy air of the manger warmed the Lord Jesus. It may have seemed a very good smell, that breath, to the Christ child.
I send my love to all,