Monday, December 22, 2008

O Come...

I find myself a few short days from Christmas with a heart full of thoughts. I've said before I'm just a little crazy about Christmas. I love helping to create some of the magic and meaning of the advent season with my little brood. I think there are hints of Christmas in every room in the house; paper snowflakes in the windows and the smell of pine and baking fills the house.

I'm not sure when it happens but somewhere along the line the innocence we have as children is lost. The forever-long wait until the 25th, filled with all manner of festive wonders is traded in for being the one responsible for making it all happen. So days quickly pass with shopping, parties, baking, cleaning, visiting, and just being the mama and making sure everyone is happy. Despite the busyness, I love every minute of it. This year though, something has felt different.

This is a portion of a book called Watch for the Light which I like to remember this time of year.
"What if on Christmas Eve people came and sat in dim pews, and someone stood up and said, "Something happened when you where out at the malls, while we were baking cookies and fretting about if we got our brother-in-law the right gift: Christ was born. God is here"? We wouldn't need the glorious choruses and the harp and the bell choir and the organ. We wouldn't need the tree strung with lights. We wouldn't need to deny that painful dissonance between the promise and hope of Christmas and a world wracked with sin and evil. All of that would seem gaudy and shallow in comparison to the sanctity of that still sanctuary. And we, hushed and awed by something greater and wiser and kinder than we, would kneel of one accord in the stillness. A peace would settle over the planet like a velvet coverlet drawn over a sleeping child. The world would recollect itself and discover itself held in the womb of The Mother of God. We would be filled with the fullness of God, even as we filled the emptiness of the savior's heart with ours."
---Loretta Ross-Gotta

I heard a sermon last week that captured so much of how I have felt this season. This season of advent really is about rejoicing in our manger-born King who became like us so He could rescue us and about our longing for Him to come again. My pastor read this story from a recent issue of the New York Times about a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe that killed the youngest five children of one family a few weeks back. This month, in this season of celebration, my heart has at times been heavy. We have had some grey days as of late. Some so grey when I woke I wondered if it was still night because the darkness dragged into the day, and I sipped my tea watching the cloud-shrouded dripping mountain instead of the pink glow of morning sun lighting it up. I don't suppose I'd stopped long enough to sort through how I'd been feeling. On one such grey day last week I found myself on a lonely stretch of highway peering through water streaming down the windshield and down my cheeks. There was a weight on my shoulders of loved ones hurting, broken relationships, the struggle of our flesh. I thought of those precious children whose little bodies' fought for life and quickly lost under deplorable health conditions. For the woman whose husband abandoned her this year, the man diagnosed with cancer, the family that lost their house and is broke. What does this baby born so long ago mean for them? And I wept for those children who suffered and for the ones they left behind, wept for thousands of others who are suffering all over the world. I was not despairing but longing, expectant for the day His sword will yield the final death blow to suffering and sin.
Certainly there is no easy tidy bit of rhetoric to dissolve these gut-wrenching issues. But with that said, I cling to the hope that is Christmas. That the King and creator of all that wrapped himself in human flesh was so pained by the sadness and suffering of the people he loved, that he made a plan to rescue us. It didn't end in a manger or on a cross, our Prince of Peace will obliterate and destroy the sting of death and disease. This is what I know, so I wait... and whisper through tears, O come, O come Emmanuel.

Today I held my friends brand new baby girl. Her name is Selah Grace. Selah was taken from the Psalms and is believed to mean to pause and reflect, what a lovely reminder. It is in the light of such darkness that I was awed by the beauty of her tiny face, the wrinkled skin on her hands, her smell. The contrast of such suffering and such blessing. The strength in Josh's arms around me, the sweet spirits of my children, these blessings that I am overwhelmed to be the recipient of. As Christmas draws near my soul rejoices in the love that our God has lavished on us and in the promise of hope and healing.