Christmasy, Christmasy, ‘murica Christmas

Christmas is a time for good news.

And I’ve got a lot I think I could share lately.   I could tell you about going to check out my new house in the olive orchard (yes, I got evicted, in case you missed the last post), only to help my new landlord put a foosball table in my garage, where I ended up playing foosball with my new next door neighbors for about an hour while we ate free mandarins.   I was invited to lunch and for tea by nearly everyone I met.  Living in the countryside is going to be drastically different from living in the city, I can already tell.  You should see how I light up when I talk about it.

Or I suppose I could tell you about an exciting phone call I received.  The glasses project has been, officially, approved.  Sometime this week, you will see a link from me that let’s you donate to the project, and for only $15, you can provide one Moroccan youth with a pair of self-adjustable glasses.

Or I could tell you about sitting in on two English classes with a new English teacher named Badr who hilariously and constantly berates his students trying to get them to learn more.

Or I could tell you about submitting yet another grant to do a diabetes education workshop.

All things I’ve mentioned before, because I wanted them to happen so desperately.  And all these things are finally taking place.  The wheels are starting to turn, and it’s just incredibly exciting.  Oh, and I should mention that all of that happened on the same day, which is just sort of a funny fact about life here.  You spend so much time thinking that nothing is going to pan out, failure hitting you left and right, and then in one day, everything you’d been trying to do for the last six months suddenly just… worked.

So, yes, Christmas is a time for good news, and this year’s Christmas will mark the first time I’ve been home for the jolly holiday in two years.  That’s especially good news for my family, I suppose.  But it stands in stark contrast to the last two Christmases, one in a canyon and another in an endless, sandy desert.

In some ways, the last two years took me out of my usual expectations for Christmas (and in doing so made it seem more like what Christmas is supposed to be than it ever had been before).  There were no Christmas trees or mistletoe or lights or Santa or gifts to open.  Just friends who were like family.  And there was a dark, starry sky, an arid abyss, a few camels grazing, and the year before, deer resting in the Grand Canyon.  I think being so far-removed from the holiday “traditions” has made me appreciate those traditions even more, as well as what all is behind them, what all they symbolize.  I am just bursting thinking about it.  I absolutely can’t wait to see Christmas lights and candles and Christmas wreaths, and smell a warm house – a warm house, to repeat – filled with that rich, Christmas aroma.  Mom and Dad emailed me a picture of the family Christmas tree, and all I could think was, “In just a week or so, Abner and I snuggle up right there under the tree and  watch the lights twinkle and just smile.”

It’s funny, too, looking on at America’s silly little arguments about Christmas from the perspective of living in Morocco, where Christmas is often confused with New Year’s, because almost no one even knows what it is to many Americans.  For all the arguing over the use of the term “Christmas” vs. “happy holidays,” there just seems to be a silly little obsession with language.  If we actually focused on loving each other, saying “Merry Christmas” would have a positive connotation even if it was said to a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist or an atheist.  It would be so nice if people could hear the words “Merry Christmas” and associate them with giving to the poor, caring for prisoners and loving your enemies.  But all too often, those words get associated with shopping, with a people who make a point to dislike anyone who isn’t like them and disrespect any traditions that might be different from Christmas.  Or to put that in theological terms, to say that Jesus is the (only) reason for the season completely misunderstands both the notion of a vulnerable incarnation and also misunderstands the joy of the season, as well.   After all, what’s joyous about saying love and grace entered the world as a gift for a very select group of people and no one else?

All that is to say, I get it.  I get why we obsess over that language.  Because language is important.  Or should be.  Because we want to respect each other.  But maybe instead of obsessing over how to appropriately greet each other, we should focus on how to appropriately treat each other.  Because if we’re loving one another in the first place, then it’d be awfully difficult for us to twist a holiday that’s supposed to be about loving the vulnerable into an exclusive, consumerist, and hypocritical “war on religion.”

But whatever.  Christmas is a time for good news, so I won’t go on about the sometimes bad news.  America is awaiting, and America, here I come.

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