Mary, did you know that your baby boy would calm the storm with his hand?
This line from the US Christmas classic hit me different this year. The storm. Exactly as my coordinator Lindsay preached about just five days before. Us YAGMexicos were sitting in her living room having a service after a day filled with baking and chatting at our Christmas convivio.
To me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. I hear banda music, people can get by in short sleeve shirts, there are no Christmas lights aglow underneath a blanket of snow, and we drink ponche instead of peppermint hot chocolate or eggnog.
For me Christmas is “calm and bright” but I can’t seem to hush life here like I can at home. First, I literally can’t hush it. The construction in front of my house begins at 7am and powers on until 9 or 10 at night. The pollero next door begins pounding chicken thin at 9am. The bar one shop over flares its lights and pumps its music ’til wee hours. As I live across from un mercado, which currently is engorging the streets with puestos for all your Christmas needs, people come and go constantly.
Second, here I can’t “calm the storm” and see life as “calm and bright”. Every day I see homeless people begging. I see children selling things in the metro, children too young to be missing school but ¿quién sabe?, their family likely needs every peso they can get. At work, I learn more and more about systemic human rights violations that I, that we, unknowingly support by shopping at transnational corporations like Walmart, buying products with metal from mines, and hating migrants who put their lives on the line to get to our country only find more insecurity and hatred. When I walk in the street I feel, see, and hear the machismo that permeates this culture, unavoidable given my reality as a white female.
All is not calm. All is not bright. There are storms raging here.
The calmness of my normal Christmas is not set at my doorstep in a safe neighborhood backed by bluffs and looking out towards mountains, surrounded by my family. Gone are the comforting familiar hugs, tastes, and sounds.
But then again there are storms raging at home in the USA as well: shootings all over in the country including my hometown, #blacklivesmatter movement demanding a true equality and justice for black lives killed, xenophobia flooding minds and hearts of citizens against Muslims, political candidates that make me hesitant to say I’m from the USA with their disrespect and hateful political stances. So what do we do with our Christmas traditions proclaiming the good news of our baby Jesus’s birth in such crazy times?
This stormy context, however, isn’t too far from the context of the Christmas story. Life before, during and after Jesus was ANYTHING but calm and bright. Think fear, oppression, suffering, violence.
As Lindsay reminded us,
What about in the days following Christmas? King Herod has a fit and freaks out that some new King will rob him of his power, Joseph has this wild clairvoyant nightmare that Herod is going to murder all these innocent children, and the Holy Family hits the road running like refugees to a land far from the grasp of Rome called Egypt.
But then, in the midst of this stress and angst of ancient Galilee, for a moment, in the midst of that crazy storm that was life 2000 years ago, the eye of the storm passed over Bethlehem and God dropped hope into a manger. Jesus.
All is calm and all is bright. And God says, I hear you. I see you. I will not abandon you. I will not forsake you ask you live this struggle. In fact, I am Immanuel, God with you. God with us.
Today, we celebrate the eye of the storm. For me this looks like settling the delicious food of a wonderful late Christmas Eve meal around a family full of love, listening and dancing to a wide variety of Mexican music, swinging at piñatas, and kissing a baby doll version of Jesus. I am allowing myself peace and hope, joy and courage on this important day. After all, we need this moment of hope, however brief, because once it passes, the storm keeps raging.
And when the storm starts raging, we as brothers and sisters are called to be Jesus’s hands and feet. I see so clearly in my communities here people who remind me how to fight in this storm and how to truly believe in the hope that is this eye of the storm.
For me, this is best Christmas message I could have received this year. I hope we find hope and renewal in this Christmas focusing on more than cookies, presents, and a story of Jesus out of context.
Feliz Navidad, mis querid@s. And thank God for sending Jesus to calm the storm.