Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent 3 & 4 - Approaching

I have 5 children.  All but one resides in the US...though 3 of them have lived and worked internationally, the youngest is still an international adventurer and now living in Italy, and will make his way to Australia soon.... or so I hear.

I remember what it was like to bring each one of these precious human beings into this world.  I remember the long journey from that first tinge of other worldliness... there's just something about the beginning of carrying the seeds of another human being within... to the moment of birth and separation. Those were the sweetest of times.  I crawl into those spaces in my memory on occasion and yearn for closeness with my children again.  Alas, one of the curses of living on this earth in my cultural space and place is that most families no longer live and love in the same community over the years.  Only now that I am closer to the end of my run on this earth than the beginning, can I mourn for that loss.

It is of course the Christmas season and naturally I am thinking about Christmases past.  We call it the "winter holiday" at the international school I work at.  Ostensibly because there are so many different belief systems represented, that to call it "Christmas" really would for the majority of our students, be a misrepresentation.  I love however the way the children at the school are intrigued by all things Christmas.  Of course some of them are familiar with the holiday, as they do study celebrations and belief systems of the world, so they also understand intellectually what Christmas is.  I had fun helping some second graders write their essays about what they would do over holiday.  I even got to explain to several children why it's called "Christmas, and why it is capitalized. 

So our holiday has begun, the children are off to various places in the world, staff are flying out today to either visit new places or to go home to see family.  Some of us will remain here.  I chose to stay because I was told that the first year overseas, it is difficult to visit home, then have to leave to return.  I think it was a wise choice.   My kids used to flock to our home in North Idaho for Christmas celebrations.  We had so much fun together back then, and if I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds of brothers joking with one another, grand kids squealing with delight, my daughter laughing, my two chef sons clacking around in the kitchen. There will be none of that this year.


My lovely granddaughter has come for a visit.  Isabel arrived two days ago, and I think so far she is enamored of this city.  Of course she brought snow with her.... yes it snowed here yesterday in Istanbul, enough for the ministry of education to call for a school holiday on Friday... so we are free today. 
 She and I took advantage of that freedom to put up the fake tree that the last tenant left behind.  I wasn't going to have a tree this year... but I have NEVER not had a tree, so we put it together, strung some lights and decorated with the sweet little homemade ornaments sent to me from Isabel's siblings.   I played some Christmas music, we ate leftover Indian food, and planned for the rest of the day, which included marathon shopping, dinner, and watching The Hobbit in the local theater.

I love the Peter Jackson films interpreting Tokien's stories.  He manages to embody the whole of the works... including the emotional depths of the character's journeys, which are spiritual allegories.  J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were great friends, and much of both their fictional works characterize the enormous task of a life adventure, particularly the Christian walk.  (Though Lewis' stories are much more simplistic and lack the intricately descriptive narration of Tolkien.)  Last night as I watched the scene where Bilbo Baggins leaves Rivendell to join the dwarfs on their very dangerous journey, and again when the dwarf king is attacked and he comes to the rescue in spite of his great and seeming insignificance I found myself weeping over his struggles and turned to see that Isabel too was wiping away tears. Bilbo is anything but a warrior, 
yet he attacks evil with absolute and utter lack of fear or consideration for personal safety when it comes to defending others.  I identify keenly with Bilbo precisely because he is weak flawed and insignificant.  Yes, there is much in the Rings trilogies that strike a cord with those of us who have suffered loss, yet continue to battle daily for place and peace in this world. 

I have left my home, my friends, my family to strike out on an adventure.  It isn't always easy, and while it hasn't been physically dangerous (other than walking in Istanbul traffic and riding in Turkish taxis), I have had to fight some wicked and destructive personal monsters.  I long so dearly to rest in my own Rivendell.  To be at peace in my home, to sit with sweet loved ones knowing that evil is vanquished, and neither destruction nor death can ever steal innocence and life away again.  I long to be courageous now, to battle injustice and hatred and to be a part of building a better place to reside.  In the meantime, I sit with my first grandchild after a day of shopping for gifts, grateful for the presence of at least one of my kin. 

Christmas day approaches as I finish this post.  Today we will visit holy places... The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia, and The Chora Church.  I imagine this too will bring a flood of emotion for me.  The Christmas journey is a story of impossibility, danger, labor, fear, joy, sacrifice and ultimately triumph.  I read a story today that said on  Christmas eve in medieval Scotland, the bells tolled a long and heavy dirge... to announce the death of the devil.  With so many of humanity's children these days, a dirge also does play.  Our world is still veiled in darkness, but Christmas will arrive... and with it a promise of victory and joy and celebration.

In the meantime... I will see you on the road!

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazereth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David... because he belonged to the house and line of David."  Luke 2:4

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