Anticipating Easter and impatient for Spring I find myself contemplating Christmas.
I have lived my entire life in rural NYS, most of it in its somewhat northern reaches. The Northern-European-Agrarian-Pagan allusions resonate with me. There is nothing so holy, so nativity like as a small barn on Christmas morning. It gets dark early and stays dark late. The idea of waiting for the light to be born, complete with the minor chords of early Advent hymns, is very meaningful.
I grew up surrounded by and living a Norman Rockwell life complete with white iced evergreens, sleds and mittens under the tree; Christmas carols and pageants. To not have a white Christmas was cause for dismay. My mother found a Florida Christmas to be too much to bear. “How do you shop for Christmas when it is 90 degrees out?”, she said.
Something made me contemplate what Christmas might be like in the southern hemisphere. What is it like? Do they somehow unpack our traditional holiday images or do they have their own? I remember it was so difficult to just find a short sleeved Christmas shirt to wear in our overheated buildings, that I had to enlist the help of a friend in Florida.
From there – given that it is April – I had to calculate the corresponding season of Easter.
We fill our shopping carts with all the accouterments of spring: baby bunnies and chicks; daffodils and hyacinths; and brightly colored eggs. You might not realize it if you don’t raise chickens, but here our birds who have not been provided artificial light, have recently begun to lay again in reaction to the lengthening days.
More than one person has commented on the bizarre juxtaposition of the brutal death of our Savior with the pastel wonderland of our Easter celebrations. Our Lent, the 40 day penitent slog through the coldest, wettest, most dismal, seemingly endless tail of winter is the more appropriate illustration (though we use that season to tell the story of Jesus ministry culminating in his triumphant ride our hopes to be dashed by the atrocity we all know is coming).
So I wonder – “what is it like to celebrate the life of Jesus through a different agrarian lens?”
What if Christmas came the end of June?
The fields are plowed and planted. The empty hay mow is redolent with those fragrant tender bales of first cutting hay. The livestock are out to pasture (as were the sheep in that story). The barn windows and doors have been flung open to the cleansing warm air of early summer. (Do you still see the manger birth as a an ugly dark uninviting place?) Calves and foals gambol alongside their mothers on lush green pastures nurtured by their plentiful milk. Everything is bursting forth with new life.
And into this our Savior is born into the ripening fullness of life.
How would our celebration differ? Maybe with flowers and eggs and baby critters, sunny colors and lilting songs like birds exclaiming over the bounty we have received, instead of Poinsettias red with blood, and somber evergreens.
How would Easter differ if it came at harvest instead of planting? Certainly one could argue that this was a reaping of sorts, Jesus cut down in His fullness. The disciples and followers had been tended, fed and watered, now it was their turn to save this seed into themselves in an anticipation of the planting of further churches.
I have no idea how the liturgical year plays out in the southern hemisphere, nor even in sunnier climates than my own. Nor even in the region where the story originated. I am a CNY farm girl who is following some glimmer of thought that came to me on a lonely evening while reading an essay on the Book of Ruth. Now of course – there is a juxtaposition of reading about harvest while longing for the time to plant. I write this from my window seat where I watch the birds who have finally arrived at my feeders flit back and forth from the deer ravaged Rhododendrons.
Perhaps this June I will contemplate the Christmas story from the sunny flowerbeds of my front yard, and somehow weave the idea of the Crucifixion into my Thanksgiving preparations (Tom Turkey would understand)