My body has a knack of telling me I’m overloaded in life via the gift of an eye twitch. It is like having a toddler on a space hopper bouncing in your face – ‘look at me, look at me, look at me!!’. It doesn’t hurt, it’s not a big deal but it is MADDENING and it generally goes on intermittently for a few weeks. It usually pops up around this time of year so I jokingly call it my “Advent Eye”. Last year as I arrived at church, I told my friend Norma about Advent Eye. She FLUNG her long arm heavenwards and declared in the name of Jesus that “This. Ends. TODAY!!” Hilarious really, and guess what? My eyelid obeyed. The space hopper was popped by the Mighty Norma, wielding some kind of giant pin of spiritual authority. Ha!
You don’t need me to explain what starts the eye thing off at this time of year surely? It’s crazy. Just glance at the magazines whilst you are queueing up to buy your sprouts…. ‘How to rustle up a magical Christmas’, ‘Ten things you need for a time of spectacular spectacularness’, ‘How to out-sparkle your sparkly friends without looking like that’s what you’re trying to do’ etc. Yes – you’re meant to LOOK great too, in case you missed that.
The thing is, I’m not sure we’re designed to all be having a magical time all at the same time? Working for a church brings home the obvious: there’s always someone having a rubbish time. Death doesn’t think to check the calendar first; couples decide they can’t stand each other a day longer; folks run out of cash. You get the picture..and that’s just our little patch of the world.
When we were in the visa interview and were told we had to hand over our passports, my first thoughts were: 1) we don’t have enough clothing with us, and 2) I might not be able to duck out of the Christmas thing after all. When the interview finally ended, I went to a toilet cubicle and had a brief, very swear-y prayer time. When the shock subsided I thought ‘OK this could be an opportunity: a simple Christmas with low expectations.’ And also ‘who needs lots of clothes anyway? Clothes are over-rated’.
I am married to somebody whose response to festive stress every year is ‘Don’t bother. Nobody cares’. And that’s the crux of the problem my friends – I CARE!! I love it and I hate it! I love Jesus, I love fairy lights, I love food and booze and bling and bringing people together, and carols and telly and presents – I should be a Huge Christmas fan!! I can’t explain myself, it’s complicated!
So the simple/ low expectations thing is trickier than I thought. It bothers me that our ‘Elf’ DVD is in storage. Our stockings are there too. I don’t have sellotape. I don’t have anything marinading in anything. I don’t have sparkle, let alone the elusive “added sparkle”. We haven’t written cards to any teachers. (We have no teachers!) We haven’t got any rehearsals for any events. (We haven’t got any musical instruments!) We haven’t got any baubles to hang up. (We ditched our tree!) We aren’t going to a dance show, a football social, a nativity, a small group social, a works do. We don’t know whether we’re coming or going! And weirdest thing of all? The Nichols young don’t even seem to be bothered. What is that all about??
We are warm, fed, clothed, safe, happy and able to dip in to other peoples’ Christmases. But I find myself with Advent Eye!! It’s a ‘bespoke 2015 variation’ if you will. Come in Norma, wherever you are….!
I told you I was complicated….