07 January 2014

Christmas is about the women

Although Christmas has passed for the Western world, many in the Eastern world are celebrating Christmas today and so it seems fitting to post my reflection on the Christmas celebration we had in the community.

During advent, the community focused in our spiritual formation evenings on the women found in the genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba. They are strong and fascinating women, each having done something out of the ordinary. In the gospel of Matthew, each is given a place amongst all the forefathers of Jesus, even though Bathsheba’s story is overshadowed by her being referred to as Uriah’s wife. The wonder of Christmas – that everything can be different – is reflected in these women. 
In the community, we sometimes get small glimpses of how everything can be different. After the Christmas dinner in the community (involving extensive amounts of cooking, eating ourselves silly and cleaning up the kitchen), a group of us sat around in the Kajuit (the communal living room). Within a short time, it dawned on me that here, too, Christmas was about the women. It was not simply that Christmas dinner is often prepared by women, including our dinner in the community this year. This itself felt fitting to me, as I have fond memories of the camraderie found in working with other women in preparing various feasts over the years. 

At first, the sense of Christmas being about the women was simply a reflection of how the women dominated the conversation. There were some men around, but their thoughts and words faded in the face of the three strong and fascinating women present. Each comes from far-away: french-speaking Africa, former Russian territory, and Islamic north Africa. Each remains a sort of stranger in Netherlands, even if she has been here for more than 10 years and despite how much she might participate in society. The strength they showed in leaving home and starting new, including having the courage to ask for help and allow themselves to change is something I admire. The way they joked and interacted with each other – sharing thoughts about how much make-up is good for teenage girls, telling stories about their past, and teasing each other about their actual ages – is for me a sign of how the world ought to be. These women – who had even managed to help me cook Christmas dinner together without driving me or each other crazy – in their being together symbolized for me the hope of Christmas: that when God is part of this world, unexpected things are made possible. And one of those possibilities is the laughter and joy of  delightful and unusual fellowship.

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