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In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season we call Christmas, inspired perhaps by the time of preparation that is Advent but certainly by Tom Greer’s comment and by the donkey that carried Mary southward, I have been thinking of the season’s burdens. Sometimes those burdens are physical, like that of the donkey who saw one but carried two from Galilee to Bethlehem. Many burdens are those of the psyche, loaded on by the season. Of all the times of the year, this one seems especially to magnify our psychic burdens by its repeated calls to rejoice, enjoy, be happy, be merry. Those around us seem to enter into the season’s festivities wholeheartedly, and we wonder why we cannot. Families gather and we are alone, separated by distance or estrangement or circumstance. We wonder what makes our burdens unique, and why we are so cursed as to be set apart from our fellows, seemingly to bear those burdens alone. Those thoughts have led me to view the Christmas story from a different perspective—from that of the burdens shouldered by each character in the tableau, and what we might learn from them.


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