Where to begin? Perhaps with our neighbor Çiğdem in our entry. “Çok güzel bu beşik! Ama, Momi, neden burada?” Good question. Why would I have an old handmade cradle parked in a corner near the front door?
Or with Yasemin and Halil. As they pull on coats, Halil points to the wooden figures of Mary and Joseph and asks his daughter if she remembers the story I told them last year. They admire the cradle and I tell again how we wait in this season for Jesus to come. How we remember that He did come, and we look for Him to come again.
We discuss our varying Jesus traditions, and once in a while the heart question is asked: “So, Momi, what is the difference between the Muslim Jesus and the Christian?”
Or I could begin with my daughter Cait, who wonders how to care for friends in her choice to leave Santa out of her childrens’ world. Or with a first-time-pregnant friend who asks on FB how friends talk with their children about Santa and Jesus.
“And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) And angels sang and shepherds worshipped. And a star appeared and drew a few who could read the skies to a child in a manger to offer their riches.
This season loads of blogs and articles ponder ways to master the craziness, to find time to wait for and with Jesus in the midst of the commercialism and hyperactivity of modern Christmas traditions. I notice and wonder. Why don’t the writers and the readers just, well…stop?
But I can talk. I live on a Turkish hillside in a Mediterranean village where people have barely heard of Christmas. Before Çiğdem and I talked she thought “Noel” was the Western name for New Years, which is more and more marketed in commercial centers of the Middle East just as Christmas is in the West. Trees, gifts, lights, Santa–all of it. Except the Jesus part. Christmas traditions are a money maker.
I can talk, but I struggled with the same stuff. We did things to simplify and refocus, but always for me the space to appreciate the truth and wonder of Christmas began only after Christmas Day. After the gifts and the feasting and the social dos. Until we moved here. While some expats mourn the absence of the trappings of Christmas, I rejoice in the freedom to quietly watch and wait for Jesus.
Noel. Christmas. The incarnation of Jesus. In this locale where we are the only followers of Jesus, we are the incarnation. So we give thought and prayer to ways to communicate Jesus’ coming to our friends and neighbors. As well as to what might obscure Him. It’s the same question everywhere, but here we have a blank slate.
We keep it simple. A wooden nativity that children can handle. Mary and Joseph wait by the empty manger while shepherds watch their flocks in a “nearby field” across the room. The angels watch from on high, and the wise men are far away. Baby Jesus hides in a drawer until Christmas Day. A few lights strung on the balcony. Advent candles to mark the journey.
Last year I found this old cradle in a junk shop. It is handmade, amateurish. I fixed it up, prepared it for a babe, but left it empty. Through it we share about that simple family long ago. We tell how we wait for the One who will come as a babe. We put it in a corner of the entry. We tell about how the government required people to journey to their home places, and so the house was overfull with other visitors. But this pregnant couple was family, so a place was found and made as welcoming as the host could manage.
Simple. Making it natural for us to tell the good story. A prop that augments our limited language. Nothing showy to distract. Rich with context.
As always, if people are to experience our story, we must make them welcome, make space for them, too. So we invite, cook special food, and include friends, neighbors and strangers in our celebrations and our everydays. We offer love and delight whenever they can be here, desiring always that they will encounter Jesus, the source of that love and delight.
I love this. Which is not to say that I would not hang a wreath on the door and put up a pretty tree, or join the choir to sing the Messiah in another place. Where such things communicate goodness and truth and family and love. For this place and this time, though, I am grateful. And Jesus is here.
Today’s post is written by Jeri Bidinger who spends her days in the Mediterranean village of Gokseki just outside of Kas, Turkey. She and her husband Curt have created a contemplative retreat center there called Spa for the Soul. Jeri is a retired attorney, former BSF teaching leader and spiritual director. She posts from time to time at cracked old pots.