I am still in the midst of all the things. My hard drive crashed, so I am basically living in my office at school trying to get my finals and the first three chapters of my thesis finished. I haven’t had a decent nights sleep in a week. I’m scheduled to work 55 hours this week between my two jobs.
In the midst of all this noise and chaos, I am still trying to make time to wait. I am still stopping to look back and remember, to look forward with hopeful anticipation. I am still trying to honor the Advent season.
This morning, after discovering that the song I’d been singing all morning was also the hymn for today’s morning prayers and listening to a beautiful cello and piano arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” I wrote a thing.
This is my Christmas gift to you. May you find a moment of silence in the chaos to reflect on the one who came and is coming again.
They tell me the night was not so silent.
That Mary’s cries echoed through the stable cave.
They tell me the background to her labor was that
Of lowing cows and disgruntled donkeys,
Complaining noisily about their disrupted rest.
Maybe Joseph panicked.
Maybe Mary was scathing mad,
In the fine tradition of every laboring woman since Eve.
Maybe the night was chaos and confusion,
Compounded by terrified shepherds
And an inn-keeper, un-amused by all the hub-bub.
I’m sure he was born screaming,
Just like any other babe.
But sometime after all the chaos,
After the shepherds had left
And the animals had settled down
And Joseph had curled up in a corner to get some sleep,
Mary nursed her baby.
She counted his fingers and toes.
She traced his features with a delicate finger.
She kissed his downy head
And whispered how much he was loved.
And how could she not remember
In that silent moment,
How all of this began.
How could she not be reminded
Of the brush of angels wings in her parents’ garden.
Of a soft and terrible voice saying, “Do not be afraid.
You have found favor with God.”
How strange to realize you are holding all of God in your arms.
And this is Christmas:
After the quiet grumbling
Of mothers who have not had enough sleep
And fathers who can’t find the camera
After the joyous screaming of children
After the ringing of bells
And the singing of carols
And the opening and closing of endless front doors.
After the last kitchen timer has buzzed
And the last cabinet door has been closed
After the last wrapping paper has been torn
And the last bow has crinkled,
We wander into a silent stable
And kneel next to a nursing mother
To ponder the mystery of Emmanuel:
God with us.