This year, my Advent and Christmas meditations have--not surprisingly--been informed by my own recent experience of BIRTH.
Advent: During Advent we wait for the coming of the Christ-child, God with us, Emmanuel. It is a pregnant pause in the church calendar, if you will. This Advent I thought a lot about my own pregnancy. I spent nine months contemplating the coming child, imagining her face, how my life would change. Nothing, nothing, nothing could prepare me for the revolution this baby brought with her. The joy, the depth of love--things I cannot describe--have become my reality. How much more will the expectation of Advent be fulfilled and exploded by the reality of Christ's birth? Christmas is come, Christ is here--but His birth is, we find, too much for us to bear. We learn slowly--have needed so many Advents to begin to understand. Will need so many more to fully comprehend.
Christmas Eve: On Christmas Eve this year I remembered my own labor and delivery as I thought about Mary--who labored on Christmas Eve to give birth to the Savior. As always, I hope follow our Lady, and I hope that in some real way the pain of my labor was joined with hers--that my suffering will, like hers, produce good fruit. "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation but we ourselves...groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons."
Christmas Day: On Christmas day I remembered Harriet's first day: the shock, the exhaustion, the strange sense of well-being and safety as our little family huddled in the hospital room. Animals and angels did not attend, but we were well taken care of by nurses and our wonderful family. (And, might I add, a manger would have been more comfortable than Hattie's plastic hospital cradle!) On Christmas Day Devin, Hattie and I drove around the city. The quiet, the empty streets always surprises me. Is this a quiet echo of the first Christmas? Did creation pause, the sky grow still, the hills fall silent? "Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright!"
Feast of the Holy Family: On this feast I thought about the "silent years" of Jesus' childhood, where he lived quietly with Mary and Joseph, learned to walk, to talk, to feed himself with a spoon (or whatever utensil Joseph carved for him out of wood). How blessed Mary and Joseph were to see Jesus as I see my child: all the joy at seeing Him grow, and the sadness to see Him grow up. I ask God to make us a holy family also, to raise our baby so she can see beauty, so she can love purely.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents: Today is the dark day of Christmas, the day we remember the babies killed by Herod as he tried to destroy the infant Jesus. I have never understood this feast like I begin to understand it now. Lord God, preserve my child. Today I mourn with those mothers, whose suffering foreshadowed the suffering of Our Lady as she also watched her child die: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."
But, as we know, Love conquers death. The Holy Innocents, the first martyrs, are glorious now. And though Christ died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again! So Merry Christmas to all. A Christmas full of Joy which lights up the darkness.