Anticipating Christmas and the season has always taken up a lot of mental space. When I was a child, I’d start planning from July and would start secretly stashing things away in a cupboard. I held steadfastly to every tradition we had ever started and was incensed when my mom changed the coloured lights to a warm yellow or when she didn’t want to hang the ugly decorations we’d been hanging on the tree for years. Everything had to be just right. Quality Streets in the bottom of the stocking not Passions. I would get upset if she dared start the mince pie dough without me. Everything had to be the same. It was a huge adjustment for me to get married and celebrate in a completely different way with my husband’s family.
As I “mom”, I realised that, although a lot of the focus was on Jesus growing up, I would anticipate the presents more than anything else. Also the chocolate in my advent calendar on the fridge. I made a unique advent “calendar – a new character to add to the nativity set every day with a little story. We also started advent candles. And a Jesse tree. I had plans to start some more traditions this year.
But, as the festive season approached, I felt the burden of Omicron. It loomed over me as I saw the national cases start to rise. I tried to supress my anxiety and carry on with life, telling myself that we should carry on as normal until it hit our neighbourhood.
Then my dad came over with a mask on. He had been exposed. To someone from the church. It was here. And the first case I knew of in our area affected him. The day he came out of isolation, I went in. I had been exposed by a doctor friend. She came into my kitchen. The door was wide open. She wrote me a script, handed it to me and walked out. Neither of us was wearing masks. She tested positive the next day. Along with three more people I knew. My tummy was sore the night I was exposed. The next day I was with my friends’ children not knowing about the doctor and her symptoms. We cancelled all our plans for the week – Christmas carols with friends and a baking day with my mom and sister. I reluctantly pulled a mask out of the cupboard and wore it around my family. That night I camped out in the study, knowing I only had three days of this. With pretty much no symptoms whatsoever, I jumped out of bed on Saturday with bucket loads of energy and went off to get tested. I helped my husband with the girls’ Christmas present and anxiously checked my results, longing to rip the mask off and jump back in my bed with my husband.
Alas, when the results came through hours after they were expected, I was reeling when the word ‘positive’ appeared hidden in the report. I checked again and again and again. At last I went to tell my husband. He told me I was lying. Until he checked the report. My mom told me I was lying too. It certainly felt like it! I couldn’t believe the thing I’d been terrified of and running from for 22 months was living in my body.
I handled it pretty well, all things considered. Especially since my kids had started to display symptoms. And my husband sneezed and sniffed the whole of the following day. He claimed it was because he roughed up the cat. I laughed and said it was Covid. I slept for three hours that Sunday and felt extremely fatigued. In the middle of the night, I struggled to breathe and had to pray my way through it.
My sister tested positive that day too. And suddenly I knew my result was accurate – I had probably given it to her when I saw her. My hopes rose. My parents had spent a lot of time with her too. Maybe the Lord would answer my prayers after all – a Covid Christmas all together. Not quite the way I expected but at least we’d be together!
I woke up with a slight headache and body ache the next day but was all amped to go with the family to get the rest of them tested. Filling out forms was challenging. My mind was all deurmekaar!
We awaited the results and, although I didn’t want them to be sick, they all had symptoms and I couldn’t wait to rip the mask off and all have Covid together. My kids had been all over me despite me wearing my mask religiously.
But the results came through and every.single.one of my family members test results were negative. Possible to have one false negative but not three!!
I walked down to my sister’s house, knocked on her door and fell into her arms, sobbing. I had a good, long cry and rant. I just couldn’t take it anymore! I was tempted to throw the mask into the washing basket since we’d all be isolating but that would nullify the last 4 days and send us into a longer isolation if they tested positive later. Christmas now became a complicated mess. If my parents tested positive they couldn’t see my children and husband. If they tested negative, they wouldn’t be able to see my sister and I. If we all got together masked, the risk of my family getting it would more than double and I wasn’t prepared to take that risk either. My aunt had managed to get here from the UK despite all the travel bans. We hadn’t seen her for 5 years! She was going to see my gran after her visit with us and we simply could not risk her getting Covid. Why? Why did we have to suffer so over such a special time of the year?
But, as I have mulled over the events and the rollercoaster of the last week, I have come to see why all this has happened. And, much as I struggle to admit, it has made sense and even, dare I say, been “worth it.”
When my life became complicated last week, I realised the Lord was dealing with me and my idols. My family, my health and my traditions and love for Christmas were so important to me. Too important.
When I tested positive, I didn’t know what the next few days would hold. How would my body react to this awful virus? Would I struggle to breathe or be hospitalised? Would I lose my sense of taste and smell? How would my family react if they got it? Would my little one, who seems susceptible to chesty coughs be OK? The variables were endless and frightening.
And for the first time in my life, this world was coloured so darkly by the fear of mortality that I found myself thinking, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”
Stunned by the fact that, for the first time, the hope of heaven seemed more appealing than this wretched, broken world, I began to ponder my spiritual walk. Was I finally, after years of complacency and comfort, growing?
I then contemplated my reaction to the Lord. Many say their thirties are the best years of their life. I turned 30 the week Covid hit our country. In fact, the first case was close to where I live. I was in the throes of postnatal depression that has never left me. Topped with a ridiculously sensitive conscience that has brought me endless grief and despair over Covid restrictions and the fear of my life and the health of those I love compromised, the last three years have been hell for me.
My spiritual life crumbled under the weight of these trials. In the midst of the dark days of depression, I lost faith that God cared about me. How could he watch me, His child, in the pit of despair and hopelessness and not pull me out of the mud and mire?!? How could he allow doubts to fester regarding my already weakening faith, completely rocked by worldly religions I was exposed to? It felt as though He had ruined everything for me. He ruined every big event in my life – my 21st, my wedding, my childbirth experiences, my motherhood experience and my mental and spiritual state. I was a mess of fear, depression and pessimism.
Yet here I was, living my nightmare last week as I stared at a positive report overcome with peace and not fear. Acceptance and not frustration. Calm and not anger. Instead of shaking my fist at Him through angry tears and yelling, “You really do ruin everything! How can You say You love me,” I found my heart thankful that my symptoms were really mild and that I didn’t have to run from this virus any more. The marathon of running for my life was over. And I was actually overcome with relief.
I also pondered a birth story. Not my own, filled with regret and unmet expectations but another, probably also far from a birth dreamed and hoped for. A weary woman, lying on the floor of a dirty stable, hay scratching her all around and animals lowing in the same room. Possibly the stench of their waste. With a man who had never seen past a woman’s ankles. A man she had never been intimate with and a man who was not the father of her child. Her mother far away and not there to help and guide her through labour and childbirth. Maybe I wasn’t the only mother with a birth story I hadn’t planned for. Even the mother of Christ probably didn’t have the birth story she expected or hoped for.
But maybe that’s a point to consider. Christmas, while a time of great rejoicing, is also a picture of suffering. Mary – nearly stoned for her “unfaithfulness” and shunned by the community. Joseph – a man who could not consummate his marriage for 9 months and a father to a child not his own.
Jesus – God in the flesh. In a body He created. Lying on His mother’s lap as a helpless, flailing infant after having left His throne in glory. Condemned to a life of suffering, criticism and death.
All three of these suffered different trials. All three gave up who they were to serve the will of God so that men might be saved!
What a picture to see the joy of Elizabeth embracing Mary with the caption,
The Weary World Rejoices!
What a weary soul read that phrase! What a weary world! Torn by war; ravaged by a virus; rocked by climate change and riddled with sin.
My weary soul rejoiced. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! Christmas brings the hope of glory! One day all the suffering will end. It will! There will be no more tears. No more Covid or cancer. No more sin. Glory is within our reach if we just fall on our knees, hear the angels’ voices and believe that God in the Highest deserves the glory for He will bring peace for all men for unto us a Son is given. He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And His Kingdom will never end!
Go tell the world that Jesus Christ is born!
Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.comTags: birth, birth story, Christmas, fear, glory, Jesus, love, suffering, The Nativity, virgin birth, weary world