It is Christmas Eve, and I spent two hours outside, pulling weeds, shoveling compost, and piling random detritus into yard waste bags for the city to carry away. I needed it: sadness for Julia’s family, missing my own parents on this holiday, and overwork at work has made me cranky and short with the people I love. I realized, as my back creaked and protested at the labor, that the reason I garden is not The Garden. My garden isn’t much to look at. I spend little time looking at it, so I don’t mind much. It is a garden to work in, to tinker with – it is not a noun to me, but a verb.
As I was out there pulling weeds I remembered that this morning Noah asked me what was so special about Jesus. On the Eve of Christmas that is a good and valid question. I gave him some pablum about Jesus being God’s child, and teaching us how to love people. But those answers don’t satisfy me, and they shouldn’t satisfy Noah – we are all God’s children, and a whole host of saints (religious and secular) have taught us how to love. And I realized: Jesus is the verb in God. Just as my garden is nothing to me without gardening, God is nothing without entering into our lives, and that is what Jesus did, or at least showed some of us that God does.
Maybe Jesus is part of the answer to the age-old of question of why we suffer if God is so loving and good. Maybe God said, with Jesus, that life is not real life – it looses its verb-ness – if the world does not contain both suffering and joy. Even so, even with the suffering, God threw in with us, with our lot, incarnated, for the privilege and pain of living, as a quiet way of saying: it is worth it, my sad, loving, joyful, frail people – life is worth it.
So that, Noah, is the meaning of Christmas to me. That, and the look on your face when you find the electric train set under the tree tomorrow morning.