Christmas in the Wilderness

November 15, 2020
Nativity scene illustration with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus

This past Lent, during the wilderness of the COVID-19 pandemic, I experienced the revolutionary chaos, compassion, and love of the Christmas story.

I was expecting to become a mom the week before Holy Week. Amazing preparations were happening: two baby showers, litres of sorrel (the official celebration drink of Jamaicans around the world) in the basement ready to be served to loved ones dropping by, guest beds made for family who were coming to visit from afar, and worship resources at the ready for this United Church of ours. But then the order came from the prime minister himself: “Go home and stay home.” And all my plans changed. Parties, flights, and visits all cancelled, the office building closed, and the person I was preparing for with such meticulousness arrived early.

It was all a little much.

One night in this wilderness, I was up with worry, rocking my little one to sleep, and I remember finding comfort in the knowledge that those first years of Jesus’ life must have been a holy mess for Mary and Joseph. I wondered how much the story had been domesticated over time. And was all the messiness intentionally left out, was it forgotten, or was it just understood? (After all, you can’t have babies without mess.) Were there aunties and uncles who brought food, blankets, and toys? Were there friends and neighbours who watched over baby Jesus while Mary took a bath? Were there colleagues who covered for Joseph? Is such generosity and compassion still expected when families grow and change?

As I rocked my babe, I remembered all of the people helping me sort through this wilderness, and I prayed that I would never forget the chaos of the past few weeks. The messiness has been accompanied by an overwhelming outpouring of compassion and grace that has reminded me I am not alone. Colleagues have provided me great amnesty, loved ones have been going out of their way to drop off clothes, toys, and Guinness at my doorstep, and my extended church family continues to surround my family in prayers and good wishes. Even if I could handle the messiness of parenthood on my own (which I can’t), the past few weeks have reminded me that I don’t have to.

The story of baby Jesus coming into the world, as a messy and precious child to parents who had to rely on the kindness of strangers and barnyard animals, is a powerful reminder to us all that we are in this messy thing called life together and we don’t have to travel through it alone. When we as Christians spread the good news of Jesus’ birth this Advent and Christmas season, may we in our actions, words, and deeds prove to others, especially those in the wilderness, that they are not alone.

Yours in Christ,