A magical wonderland, or a bucket of yuck?
Earlier this week I came across a two-panel cartoon. The first panel showed a pretty Christmas tree, filled with glowing lights and shiny ornaments, with a bright star on top. Next to the tree was a rotund snowman with sticks for arms, a smiling face out of coal or stones, complete with a carrot nose and winter hat. It was snowing lightly, and there was a character in a red Santa hat standing between them, singing “Fa-la-la-la-laaa!” Above the panel was the caption, “December: A Magical Wonderland of Lights!”
The second panel showed the same tree, this time just broken twigs, with a few pine needles strewing the ground beneath it. The snowman’s head was lying, noseless and hatless, next to its body, which was now lumpy and thin. Instead of falling snow, there was wind blowing over a gray background, with the character now decked out in a hat with earflaps and a winter coat, shivering out “F-f-f-f-f…” Above the panel was the caption, “January -- Spring: A Cold, Gray, Bucket of Yuck.”
Here we are, mid-January. Christmas, with all of the twinkling lights, special food, family time, gifts, warm and tender stories, and the babe in the manger has passed. The Wise Men have come and gone. We are now stuck in the reality of long days of winter darkness, gray skies and moods, flu and cold season, chilly temperatures which often makes being outside unpleasant, strong winds howling over the expanse of the prairie, and not a whole lot to look forward to. Valentine’s Day may be a blip to some, non-existent to others. The same goes for St. Patrick’s Day. April’s springtime and Easter seem SO far away at this point! We can more easily identify with the resignation or hopelessness of the second cartoon panel.
But we don’t have to. For Christmas was just a beginning, the beginning of the earthly life of the Savior, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah. He, too, knew the ups and downs that we experience in life. We have just celebrated his birth as a baby, but throughout the year we weekly glean useful life nuggets from the teachings of this man, and we see examples through Jesus’ interactions with the beloved people of God. We learn more about his life and love, and how to live faithfully as his followers. We learn how to treat one another, and how to care for creation.
The weather outside may be gray and cold, but there is no reason our faith life, our family life, our work life, or our school life has to be the same. Let’s keep the brightness and warmth of Christ and his birth alive in our lives as we live through the grayness of winter, being a bright spot of hope and life for those around us as we live out our faith in our daily lives.