Each Woman Mary, Each Child Christ

I found respite recently in Jeanne Murray Walker’s essay on Alice Munro in Image, describing Munro’s domestic fiction, and related utterly to Walker’s wrestling with “Doing Something Important.” It is a place I find myself often, wondering if the few hours a week I have of child care for the baby are an example of my missing what I am supposed to be living and learning. Jesus does not say to come to him as someone Doing Something Important, but as a little child.

You’re not supposed to write about your own children if you want to be a real writer. Too cliché, too sentimental. But what about the one whose birth we so recently celebrated? This isn’t sentimental—it’s the real deal. A child is born in Bethlehem, and he is the king of kings. This is earth shattering. There’s something there we’re meant to learn. Maybe even everything.

A December 2004 article in Time notes that the nativity story is the part of the Jesus history that gives scholars most trouble. Only Matthew and Luke talk about the birth of Jesus, and like most parallel accounts in the Bible, their stories contradict each other. Neither account is given much room on the page for a holiday of such current social and commercial import.

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The Cave of the Heart

caveNot long ago a young man announced on a video chat site that he intended to kill himself, and that he would let people watch, if only he could have help setting up the video feed. Someone gladly complied, and so the boy positioned his camera, sat in his chair, and washed down a handful of pills with alcohol. Afterward he set a fire in the corner of his room. Then he crawled into the darkness beneath his bed and waited to die.

Hundreds watched, while others who were being excluded complained that the site’s bandwidth was inadequate. Ideas were tossed back and forth in the comments section about how to include everyone who wanted to enjoy the show. One of those who was able to watch griped about the smoke. He couldn’t see the boy dying. He logged on to watch a boy die, and the stupid smoke was getting in the way. [Read more...]

Clinging to Christmas

I cling to Christmas. I’d like to say that I have some tradition to which I hew—celebrating exactly twelve days of Christmas, say, or keeping my garland nailed up until the end of whatever date anthropologists think marks the end of the pagan winter solstice.

I used to aspire to traditions, now I aspire to survival. So cling is the right word.

I grab hold after Thanksgiving, as soon as I can slow the carousel of work and life. I don’t pull the brake until after Thanksgiving, because I instinctively resist being made to do anything. Every year, the desperate big-box retailers try to gin up our holiday shopping a little earlier, and I don’t like the pressure one bit.

I swear, as God is my witness, my local Wal-Mart was playing Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas is You” a full two weeks before Thanksgiving this year. Overcoming the perennial commercial Christmas bullying to put up my tree is like starting a meal with a full case of indigestion. [Read more...]

St. Linus the Evangelist

An Encore Post

ABC recently ran its annual showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the defining Christmas rituals of my childhood. After the cartoon aired this year, my Facebook feed overflowed with love for Charlie Brown, and for Charles Schulz: “Thank you, Charles Schulz,” wrote one friend, “for telling me the truth.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and feel the same way. I have a special attachment to Charlie Brown, and more specifically, to Linus—he was the first person to tell me the truth. He was the first person to tell me about the Gospel.

In the cartoon, Charlie Brown has a problem, one that can only be defined as spiritual: the materialism in Sally’s Christmas list, the obnoxious lights on Snoopy’s doghouse, and Schroeder’s incessant piano boogie sink Charlie Brown beyond his usual, block-headed depression. [Read more...]

The Christmas I Sat Next to a Sex Offender

Last year my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas with our infant daughter. She couldn’t understand the holiday, of course, but that didn’t stop us from discussing Advent calendars, wreaths, and Jesse Trees in depth, continuing a friendly argument about Santa Claus that has been going on since our engagement.

Citing our childhood experiences as rationale, we hashed out the significance of the Incarnation in the form of felt, cardboard calendars filled with chocolate, and a fat man driven around by reindeer.

Christmas in my youth meant festive cooking and fellowship. My mom made Greek kourabiedes, baklava, and pecan pie with nuts from my grandparents’ trees. My dad roasted beef or pork, carefully basting it with the au jus so that it melted on our tongues. [Read more...]