Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cradle

Where to begin? Perhaps with 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 I could start with Yasemin and Halil. As they gather coats and bags to leave at the end of a visit Halil points to the tiny wooden Mary and Joseph and asks his daughter whether she remembers their story from last year. They, too, 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 that we look for him to come again. We speak of the similarities in our 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 with Cait, who wonders how to care for friends in her choice to leave Santa out of Lia's world. Or with a friend (unnamed because I don't know how far she has shared her pregancy) who posts a FB question about how her believing friends talk to their children about Santa and Jesus.

"And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14) And angels sang and invited shepherds to worship. And a star appeared and drew those who could read the skies to find a child in a manger and offer their riches. God entered into human history and communicated good news. 

I see lots of blogs and articles about how to master the craziness, how to keep time to wait for and with Jesus, how to resist the commercialism and hyperactivity of the season. From my perch I wonder why the writers and the readers don't just simply stop. But I can talk, can't I, for I live on a Turkish hillside overlooking the Mediterranean in a village where people have barely heard of Christmas. My neighbor allows me to see that before we talked about it she always thought Noel was the Western name for New Years, which is more and more celebrated just as we in the West do Christmas. In the cities at least, and via TV the whole country sees it. Trees, gifts, lights, Santa--all of it. Commercial interests have noticed that Christmas is a money maker, and big shopping malls here look much like those in the US just now. It doesn't hurt, either, that we live just east of the birthplace of St. Nick and just west of the ancient town where he served as bishop 1,600 years ago. Santa is Turkish. Did you know that?

I can talk, but I struggled with all the same stuff when living in my home culture. Over time we did many things to simplify and refocus, but Christmas worship always began for me only after Christmas Day, when everything went quiet and I could rest and think and pray. Other expats write blogs and articles about how much they miss all the trappings of Christmas and about what they do to make things more like their passport homes and about how hard the holidays can be. I rejoice in the freedom to quietly watch and wait for Jesus.

When Jesus entered our human world, forgiveness, love, salvation, reconciliation and power were conveyed. In all kinds of ways. As we represent the incarnation, we think about what will communicate Jesus to our friends and neighbors. As well as what might obscure him. The issues aren't so different from anywhere else, but here we have a blank slate. Last year we put up two nativities. One very beautiful one lent by a friend celebrated the rich beauty of God's gift. Another small wooden one children could play with demonstrated his accessibility to all. We strung a few lights on the balcony and gave a string to the neighbor boy to put on his house. And we hosted a meal between Christmas and New Years and used the little figures to tell the story, prayed for our guests, and ate of the bounty of this place.

This year we've added and subtracted. We have only the simple nativity. Mary and Joseph wait for the baby while shepherds watch their flocks in a nearby field. The angels watch and the wise men are still far away. Baby Jesus is in a drawer until Christmas Day. Advent candles have marked our private journey, and I found an old cradle in a junk shop and fixed it up. It is handmade, so we talk about the simplicity of a family long ago. It is empty, and we explain that we wait for something. It is in a corner of the entry to our large house, a house designed for guests, and we tell about how many people had to journey to their home places because the government required it, and the house was overfull. But the young couple were part of the family and a place was found for them and made as welcoming as the host could make it.
Rustic, and not particularly skilled craftmanship. I picture a young father without much money lovingly preparing for the arrival of his firstborn.

A little vegetable oil rub took care of a lot of dirt and brought warmth to the wood. 

Yes, I've seen these cradles and the support is twine woven back and forth.

My sailing knots come in handy.

Simple. But chosen because of how it makes it easy for us to tell the good story, and to express how important it is to us. Props to augment our limited language skills, nothing showy or expensive to distract, and each bit rich with context. 

Though Santa comes from just up the road, we ignore him. We did with our kids when they were small, too. How could we teach them that both Jesus and Santa were real even though they never actually saw them, and then later admit that Santa was a myth? How could we glorify a figure that encourages greed and self-focus at a time when we remember how God gave the ultimate self-sacrifice as His gift to humanity? How could we let our children think that we might not always be truth-sayers to the best of our understanding?

As always, if people are to experience our story, they must be made welcome. At feasts, and in the in and out of everyday. Knowing our love and delight whenever they can be here. 

I love this. Which is not to say that I would not hang a wreath on the door and put up a pretty tree with loads of lights, or join the choir to sing the Messiah, or otherwise join the festivities of another place. Where these things communicate goodness and truth and family and love. For this place and this time, though, I am grateful. And Jesus is here.

Noel Beşiği

Çarşamba günü biz Noeli kutlayacağız. Bu bayram Hıristıyanlar için İsa'nın doğumu hatırlıyoruz. Amerıka'da özel ağaçlar, güzel ışıklar, ve başka çok şey ile evler süsleniyor. Hediye veriyorlar ve özel tatlıları yapıyorlar. Bir kişi Türkiye'de yılbaşı için aynı yapıyorlar.

Noel burası bizım için farklı, ve bunu seviyoruz. Aynı burası Yılbaşı için her şey ticari Noeli de Amerika'da. Çok reklam, pahalı dekorasyonlar ve hediyeler, fazla yemek ve ıçecek var. Ve İsa'nın doğumu önemli değil. Unutulmuş.

Burası bizim için Noel sade ve sakin. Huzurlu. Biraz ışık evimizin balkonında cünkü İsa dünyanın ışığı. Eski bir el yapımı beşik giriş kapısında bekliyor cünkü ne zaman İsa doğdu onun sehrinde çok kalabalık oldu ve ev ailerle doludu. Yani küçük bir yer evde buldu yeni bebek için. Şimdi bizim evimizde de küçük ahşap Meryem ve Yusuf hayvanlarla evde bekliyor. Ahşap çobanlar kuzularla yaylada. Ve üç ahşap bilge adam yıldızları seyrettiyorlar ve yolculuk Beytlehem'a gidiyorlar. Küçük ahşap bebek İsa bir çekmecede bekliyor. Biraz özel yemek yaptım. Sakin bir hafta İsa'yı gözlüyoruz.

Sevgililer, bizden size neşe bu Noel.

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