The Search for Enough

Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd                        Dec. 24, 2017 9:00 pm

 

Dr. Suess reminds us, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” Or less. German mystic Meister Eckhart differs with Dr. Suess. He joined the mystics from other faith traditions in teaching us that spirituality has more to do with subtraction that addition. The Christmas story helps us find contentment in less, not more. The simplicity of Christ’s nativity teaches us about “enough.”

Nancy and I learned what enough means when we lived in South America for one year. We stayed with a poor family in Peru over Christmas and were nervous about butting in to their Christmas celebrations, but they assured us that we would be more than welcome to join their family for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the town square was filled with merchants selling food and crafts. At least half of the space was taken up by farmers selling moss and decorations for home nativity sets called nacimientos. We don’t remember seeing presents at the house where we stayed, but they had a large nativity scene that they replenished with fresh greens every year. The focus was not on gift giving but on building their nacimientos and then preparing for their Christmas feast that could only be eaten after midnight, when people returned home from mass. Their turkeys, bread and desserts were baked in the communal oven in town. Their feast was modest by our standards, but plentiful for them and certainly enough for all. It was such a relief to have the focus not on gifts, but on the birth of Christ and on family gatherings with enough, but not too much, food.

As Charles Dickens wrote about the Cratchits’ Chrismas pudding, “Eveybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so.” The Cratchits did not measure enough by amount.

Our Christmas story’s lesson about enough takes us back to the crude feeding trough in a smelly, noisy barn that was enough for the birth of God incarnate. The innkeeper’s offer of rustic hospitality was enough. The shepherds’ simple gifts of wonder and voice were enough. Mary’s “yes” to God was enough. No one changed to become more in our story. Rather, each person simply offered themselves, as they already were, to God. And the angels responded with songs of praise.

Christmas is filled with expectations, as well as apprehensions; hopes as well as fears. Have we allowed enough time to cook the turkey? Will there be enough dishes to meet everyone’s food preferences? Will there be enough space and tolerance to meet everyone’s needs without grating on each other’s nerves? Underlying our concerns about not enough may be angst of not being enough. Not being patient enough, not being kind enough, not being thoughtful enough. Christmas has become an anxious quest for enough. As we prepare for the morrow, our greatest gift to others—indeed to ourselves—is to release our endless search for enough and simply rest in the assurance that we are enough, just as God has created us to be.

Faltering words finally reveal an inner truth:

I am…I was…I did…

 

Stripped of proper and pretty; naked and vulnerable.

 

It is enough to be true to our heart and our soul.

 

The whole world dissolves into the moment of compassion

when heart meets heart and nothing else matters.

 

A feather gently strokes a tear-stained cheek.

A feather on the breath of God.

 

God-naked, vulnerable babe,

Embrace us, as we are, not as we might be.

 

For it is enough.

 

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

One forgiven hand reaching out to forgive another.

 

A feather on the breath of God.

 

It is enough.

 

What bliss it is when the haunts of the past and the shadows of the future release their stifled grasp and allow us to sink into the blessed relief of now, unencumbered even for a moment, of should haves, if onlys, and what ifs.

 

In this moment of grace, the worries of good enough melt into the divine assurance of simply being God–created, God-imaged, God-loved.

 

It is enough.

 

And the angels responded with songs of praise.