Christmas with Christopher

Summer 2010 #4

It’s extraordinary how much a speechless person can say. Do you remember Christopher? Two days out from Christmas I phoned to wish him well and his answering machine assured me that someone would soon return my call. Later that day the barista at our local coffee shop rang me. “Chris is here, and I think he’s waiting for you!” Fortunately it’s only about fifteen minutes away for Bugger and I, although the ride was hampered by an inundation of plague locusts that we are hosting in our town. A power wheelchair has no windscreen shielding the driver from these crazy, scratchy-scary insects!

So there’s Chris, his Scooter taking up a lazy slice of the footpath, waiting expectantly for me with the beloved whippet, Suzie, by his side. Thankfully the scooter stays outside the coffee shop, but it’s theatrical nonetheless when Bugger, Christopher, the dog, the dog’s blanket and I make our entry.

Chris was in turn delighted with my small Christmas present; deeply embarrassed not to have a gift to swap; thrilled – almost ecstatic – to learn that we share an utter disinterest in televised sport; chagrined with the locust scourge that we both endure as mobility compatriots; chuffed to notice that I have a Leatherman on my belt just as he does on his; and quite discouraged by the imminence of Christmas Day. All this, and much more, was conveyed without a word. Chris relies mostly on mime and gesture, aided sometimes by a small folder of business cards, and numerous photos stored on a digital camera operated with his one good hand. But it was his reaction to Christmas that left an indelible, haunting image in my mind. He and Suzie will spend the Big Day with his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews; but he will be lonely. He will want to join in the conversation, but he will struggle. He will yearn to feel excitement, but will find frustration instead. So much so, he told me in explicit mime, that he feels his life is not worth living.

Personally, I’m awaiting Christmas Day with more anticipation than ever! We live in Paradise, a marvellous home which will very soon be filled with the noise of five of our children. The months of gift-building carpentry in my shed are complete, presents are wrapped, the tree is set, and the turntable spinning with Bing, Frank and the Kings College Choir.

After coffee I ploughed on through another 2 kilometres of locusts, pondering the inequality and indiscriminate demarcation of Christmas. It troubles me that my own world is about to burst into vibrant colour, while for others this day will be a lonely endurance of vanquished dreams. While these fundamental questions were seeking my attention a thousand million grass hoppers were seeking access to my ears and mouth, my pockets and socks. As I made my way to the Post Office to redeem one of those exciting red parcel cards, I learned that Bugger’s cruising speed of 10km per hour speed is the optimum velocity required to firmly wedge locusts into shirt cuffs.

The Cicada’s thrum usually heralds Christmas, but instead this year’s acridid pestilence is lending our town an unwholesome, apocalyptic atmosphere; and the Post Office had all the ambiance of a bunker, sheltering its insect-shocked clientelle. The sender’s name on my American parcel was a thrill to read, and brought to mind the lead up to a Christmas past when my Favourite Wife and I were listlessly allowing our conversation to spiral into a malaise of discontent. It wasn’t really a conversation; more a staccato exchange of bleak complaints. How miserable! Truth be told, we didn’t have so much to worry about, but then anxiety is a subjective affair and our dilemmas were real. Mercifully our deepening gloom was interrupted by a rap on the front door. It was the Postman, delivering the Messiah to our home. Salvation came in a satchel! Jesus Christ, a shepherd, some sheep and the Holy Family arrived on a Postie’s bike. That date, November 20, has become an annual ritual for us. The Christmas Season begins when we unwrap our superbly crafted wooden Nativity, and we remember that irksome Monday’s Postal Epiphany, a profound and simple lesson: God sent his Son to our ordinary world. What, I wondered, had our good friends sent to us this Christmas?

Safely home again, we opened the gift. Inside was carving in the same fine wood, an image that once again spoke deeply to our souls. ‘The Lion and the Lamb’. The majestic carnivore beside the defenceless doe; a prophetic scene from the Old Testament that upturns the order of the cruel world we know too well. I had read these very words in Isaiah only yesterday, and tomorrow night they will be read again in Christmas Eve services around the globe. The Lion and the Lamb says that one day everything will be different. Loneliness will be no more; sickness will vanish, disability will disappear, tears will no longer fall, and locusts will no longer torment! “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land  of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”. The true joy of Christmas will be forever ours.


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