Sunday, January 4, 2015

Our Homeless Christmas

My very own Christmas newborn.

Before I clock in our New Year's top ten, I wanted to pause at the end of the Christmas season to share a few thoughts about what this season has meant to me.

At the end of November, "damp treatment" turned out to be much more of a thing than anyone realised.  (When they pull out the jackhammer, realisation dawns...)  On Thanksgiving Day, a friend and work colleague in Oxford (the one who took pity on me and invited me to dinner at his college so I would have a proper dinner on Thanksgiving) commented, "a mother and newborn homeless on a holiday - that sounds familiar."

Thus began the Christmas season.  Throughout the following days of homelessness,  I juggled trying to care for and keep our shifting environment comfortable and clean for our two very small children.  It was unsettling to say the least.  I continually had to get diapers and other baby supplies and food and wash our few clothes while making sure our children were safe and sanitary in territory not designed for children - an Oxford college and then a very posh and polished flat of a friend in Chelsea who had never housed a 21 month old.  Travel was expensive and basic care was difficult -- and got worse when I and then both children fell ill.  Survival alone was our primary concern.

In these circumstances, I couldn't help but think of Mary's predicament - she, too, was homeless at a time when one wants cleanliness and comfort most - childbirth.  How do you keep a stinking stable or cave where the manger was located anywhere near clean enough for the bloody experience of childbirth?  Was labor prolonged because Mary was in such an unfamiliar environment?  Did she have any privacy whatsoever?  Why did Mary choose to go with Joseph to an unknown place when so heavily laden - why didn't she stay with her mother?  Did the baby come early?  Surely the presence of swaddling clothes - a very, very long baby wrap that told of the genealogy of the baby - meant she planned to have the baby while away from home.  Was she an outcast because her pregnancy was to all those not privy to her revelation (as Joseph and Elisabeth were) a great shame, and she was cast out and friendless?  Would no one take her in?  Was money scarce, making finding housing at the last minute even more difficult?  More, how did a homeless Mary transport baby Jesus and all of the trappings of childcare?  How long did she stay in the cave or stable before home for a newborn had to be set up - again?  How did she manage nap time and breastfeeding - again, was there any privacy?

Not everything got done this Christmas because of our late and rocky start in the season--all, perhaps, except the most important thing - focusing on and personalising the first Christmas.  I don't believe I'll ever think of the homeless couple with their newborn that starry night in quite the same way again.  


Our home under construction.


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