Politicians compete for the highest offices. Business tycoons scramble for a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. Armies march and scientists study and philosophers philosophise and preachers preach and labourers sweat. But in that silent baby, lying in that humble manger, there pulses more potential power and wisdom and grace and aliveness than all the rest of us can imagine.
– Brian D. McLaren
Internal mayhem ensued that first Christmas I was a mother. My world, my comfort and expectations collided with Mary’s disgrace, Joseph’s burden, Jesus’s humiliating arrival, humanity’s mess, the shepherd’s stink and the detritus of farm animals. The sleepless infant not quite two months old born to my foreign, leaking, profusely sweating body. My shiny expectations dashed, the knowledge that I was flawed, failed, my first Christmas as a mother so unlike the crafted magazine and catalogue pages. This was not how it was supposed to be. This was not how my first Christmas as a mother was supposed to look. I was supposed to be back to my weight. I was supposed to have an amenable, cooing, content infant. I was supposed to be better.
I was weak, while pretending to be strong. I was angry, while pretending to be happy. I was disappointed, while pretending to be satisfied. I was scared, while pretending to be at peace. There is nothing like the holidays to remind us of our difficulties, whether these have to do with our strained family relationships or our dashed expectations or grief after surprise loss. We have been conditioned to believe that if our holiday experiences fail to model those of fictional displays, we are failing, less than.
Seventeen years later I can look back and gaze at that twenty-seven year old new mama with so much compassion. Her misery was real. Her discontent was her story. Her lack caused an unrelenting ache. Her expectation of perfect was her primary mode of operation.
Advent is for the seekers and the travelers. I carry an undeniable limp as I unwittingly stumble into this final stretch of 2016. No longer can I hide the fact that I hurt, that I ache with disappointment. This space I inhabit feels unwieldy and unhinged, with a hint of despair. Too many questions render me dissatisfied and discontent. Too many poor answers reveal the near impossibility of surrender. Too much fight and too much fear have veiled my peace.
I stagger to the table, my disjointed offering of paradoxical ingredients scatter about. Nothing makes much sense. Grief and disbelief reign while I wonder if redemption is still possible, if Jesus can really do this thing that He apparently says He can do. It almost feels like seeking the Christ, the Messiah, is ridiculous – a fool’s errand.
Our Emmanuel – Lord is Come.
Our Salvation and Redemption and Breath.
Jesus. This baby, shows up at the worst time. The worst. There was little hope. There was little joy. There was little light. And yet, He came. He lived and walked and learned and loved and died. All of this, for you, for me, for now.
This body, twelve years removed now from pregnancy and nursing and leaking, aches still. I ache for the Baby to be born in me, through me, as love into the world, as light for all to see. And I fail. I carry greed and I carry resentment and judgment and so much fear. I carry it close as if it is my child. And then, I encounter Jesus, the infant. I encounter Mary, the mother who knows. I encounter Joseph, the beautiful, conflicted man. And I encounter a God who has come to me, to my heart, bringing relief to my inflicted body.
I don’t like studying history enough to draw correlations between our present situation and the world 2000 years ago. I won’t make conclusions, but I will say with confidence, where there are humans there is misery. Where there are humans, there is deep generosity. Where there are humans, there is confusion and suffering and manipulation, alongside great love and sacrifice and kindness. And so, in my stunted way, I will seek Jesus. I will fight to see Jesus. I will clamor to find Jesus wherever I can get at Him.
I am a mother through and through. People say, once you’re a parent the job never ends. It scares me when I hear this, for I am a walking wound. Sometimes the wound shrinks a little and I gain some footing. But, then, an illness, an accident, a visit to a college and I’m back where I started, back to those leaky days where I suspected everyone was trying to hurt my baby.
And I know the only answer is to be in pain. The only answer is to feel and to be vulnerable and to be honest.
In these desperate days, as people hurt, we feel, we be vulnerable, we stay honest and true to who we are.
We love and we fight and we claim the redemption and the beauty of this Baby that is the fiercest love we will ever know.
We fight for light, we fight for joy, we hope with defiance because we know. We know Love wins. And we know Resurrection persists and pushes new life into the world through our bodies and souls, our communities and nations.
Love wins for good.
Carry on friends. Know, please know, please claim, please surrender to the love of this Infant.