We chatted about baby girls. She had a granddaughter she adored. She loved to visit her and teach her to read and paint. Williamsburg pumps Christmas spirit out like Disneyworld does happiness and the bookstore was full of bundled up shoppers in search of the authentic Colonial Christmas experience. (Should I be the one to tell them it would involve outhouses and war and death? I think not.) It was a very Christmas-y talk with a stranger. When we parted ways, I chimed “Have a Merry Christmas!”
Then waited for it.
It came. (It always does.)
“Well,…the Indiana grandparents get to be with her for Christmas. So we shall see…”
Oh Christmas. Why are you a heartbreaker?
Why do all those inmost layers we manage to keep neatly in their proper places arise and stare us down over the next few days? Why do they lie and tell us our lives are sadder, lesser, messier than anyone else’s? (Or than they were last year.) And why do my kids keep asking for THAT ELF? Sorry, non-sequiter.
I wasn’t going to write about Christmas this year. I was going to be too busy being joyful and relaxed. But then something I had never thought of before occurred to me while picking up the Little People Nativity pieces one night. (We have a zebra and Noah currently visiting the Christ child – you?)
For the first time, I wondered, “Why, if Joseph was going to the home of his ancestors, during a census, were there not some extended family involved? Wouldn’t there have been a whole group of them in matching t-shirts out at the Bethlehem campground? At the least, did he not have a Great Aunt in town who could connect them with a decent midwife? Or be the midwife? Or did Mary stare him straight in the eye and say “Look. Either I birth this baby, or I navigate your family dynamics. Not both. Not at the holidays.”
Either all the Joseph-sons, were there and just left out of the narrative, (perhaps due to unnecessary advice and commentary that annoyed the author)…Or this poor, scandalized, faithful couple was very much alone. Alone with the overwhelming circumstances of their lives, alone with changed expectations about, well, everything, and alone with the full knowledge of what a difference a year makes.
I am in a class this semester called The Christian Life. Yes, that is what it’s called. I’ll be honest, I kind of thought I had this one, based on the title. Turns out I am no good at The Christian Life. We have studied and practiced spiritual disciplines over the past seven weeks and I’ve learned I’m better at studying than actually doing spiritual disciplines.” Please! “I wanted to beg the professor , “Let me read more, write more, think more! Don’t make me actually practice the discipline.” Alas, I limped on, learned how to separate space and time for prayer and silence and realized meditating on Scripture was more reliable than my own thoughts every time.
So tonight on this eve of The Eve, know that this weakest of Spiritual disciples will light a candle and say a prayer for a list of names. For people I love who feel alone, hurt, disappointed, – not where they want to be, and not where they thought they’d be. My name’s on the list. I think that’s allowed. I will pray that over the next few days, heavy with expectation, our Shepherds arrive in some form – unexpected voices who can affirm that though circumstances scream differently, we have never been alone, and even more we live on the brink of something incredibly New.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
As the Beatles say, Happy Christmas Friends. As C.S. Lewis says, Aslan is on the move.