Merry Christmas, Little Girl!
I’ve always loved Christmas. As both a kid and an adult, Christmas has always filled me with deep wonder. In that wonder lies as much stress and uncertainty as happiness and comfort.
In youth, the mystical powers of Santa consumed my thoughts. After all, he knows everything. As a five-year-old with an impressive rap sheet, the concept of everything inspired a few more than a few sleepless nights. I hadn’t really meant to tease Amber on the bus ride to school, had I? And, I’m pretty sure that my little sister started the fight that landed me in timeout without trial or jury. Surely letting the word stupid loose from my lips was a transgression that Santa could overlook, right? As much as the magic of flying reindeer and a secret workshop full of elves and toys tickled my imagination, the threat that Santa might find it in his judgment to judge me naughty—and not nice—tormented my conscience.
And, I must admit that I am indoctrinating your sister with the same dichotomy. I don’t really think it’s by design so much as it is for my own amusement. Yet, perhaps there is method in the madness.
In this season of unequivocal joy, we celebrate the actors who played out the beauty of the nativity. I wonder if the actors felt unequivocal joy in the unfolding of the story.
I imagine Mary as a young girl. She is devout in her faith and she loves God as much as any earthly being can, but she is an earthly being. She has probably fantasized about being swept off her feet by some debonair young prince who offers her family to forego a dowry for the privilege of taking her hand—after all, her beauty is without parallel. She has probably dreamt of being a princess in a palace with servants and luxuries. At times, she has probably wondered about the treasures of the world and longed to taste them in her own life. And yet, the Angel Gabriel comes to her and tells her that she will birth God’s son, a king among men. I then wonder, in the pains of labor, if she ever imagined birthing this king in a stable. I wonder if she knew that she would watch her son walk away from the family to live among thieves, prostitutes, and beggars. I wonder if she knew that he would be branded a heretic by the men of the word that she so dearly loved. On that Christmas night, surely she did not see him dying an agonizing death at the hands of the men he was supposed to rule. Despite her faith, I wonder if Mary’s Christmas was served with equal parts of joy and fear.
I see Joseph. He’s a good man, the type of man that I’d be happy to see Caroline—or you, if you were still with us—settle down with. He’s not bound for greatness, but he makes an honest living and his peers respect him. His word is his bond and he has a kind heart. And, in the confusion of a dream, he is instructed to marry a pregnant woman. He is probably not entirely sure what he has signed up for, but he obeys despite the strict norms of his society. And, in the stable on that Christmas night, he holds Mary’s hand and tries to comfort her through her labor. Maybe, in his heart, he wishes that someone was there to take his hand and comfort him, too.
More than anything, I see the mothers and fathers of Bethlehem. I hear their cries of agony as they watch a wicked fated army steal the future of their sons. I feel the sorrow of a generation of parents whose children have suffered genocide at the hands of a jealous and despicable king. For them, Christmas is a pitiless reminder that the thirst for power can trump all human emotions: dignity, compassion, decency, and the least of which is surely not love. For them, the heavy burden of Christmas reminds them of their buried sons, needlessly lost at the hands of the wicked Herod.
I fathom to think what went through His mind at Christmas. Perhaps it was true joy. Not the superficial joy that I feel from time to time when my pillows are appropriately fluffed or when my spirit is adroitly inspired. Perhaps it was the joy of knowing that, despite all of the immeasurable pain and suffering that fills the journals of history, this story of life is truly a story of victory and love. Perhaps it was the joy of knowing that, as we go about the real and tangible tribulations of our daily lives, if we could only see the master plan, we would know that Mary, Joseph, the parents of Bethlehem, and Jesus, truly lived out a story of unmatched joy and glory. Maybe, in this Christmas season, if we could understand this unfounded joy, we would realize that our trials are part of a bigger story.
It won’t change today. Pain is still pain and sorrow is still sorrow. But, beyond act three scene four, victory awaits! For those of us who are unsure, wait. And, if still unsure, be still and wait some more!
Bella, I miss you so much that it hurts. I know that my pain is not unique. I know that victory does not come cheap. My heart hurts for all of those that feel what we feel in your absence, but my heart also celebrates knowing that we will be together again. There was a young king who loved me more than I could ever fathom. His birth signaled as much tribulation as triumph. His birth in this wondrous Christmas season ensured that, despite what we actors may feel from time to time as the scenes play out, this story is truly a story of joy, victory, and the least of which is surely not love!
We will see you again. When we do, these tears will seem silly. Merry Christmas, little buddy!
P.S. Please do tell Santa that I never meant to say stupid. I’m quite sure that the word never would have entered my vocabulary had it not been for the corrupt influence of Kerry, my older sister. And, for the record, I never enjoyed a fight. Any fights that transpired between me and my little sister were undoubtedly instigated by Kathleen.
Caroline's take on the nativity. I'm pretty sure that's a guinea pig at left.