Photo taken of intersection in Bloomington, IN.
I missed Christmas Eve.
Littlest brought in the scourge that had three out of five of us (mommy and twins) devastated for the week. Laid out on the couches. Covered in all manner of bodily liquids and smells. Wasted. And not in the gin-kind of way.
Christmas Eve came quickly and we were scrambling to find clean pants for D that he hadn’t thrown up on in the last few minutes. He ended up wearing very comfy dark blue sweats with his tie and sweater. Anna was lovely but listless in her green dress with her hair matted down from laying down all day. The excitement over her new shoes had dissipated like the few seconds of snow she had caught in her hand earlier that week. But, Oz was fine. Fine with a vengeance. Like he was making up for lost time. And indignant at our lack of energy. And just happy and pleased with himself. Oh, good. For. You. Buddy.
For the 5:30 service I sang a duet with Katy, the music director – an old carol to the the tune of a French melody. I had been looking forward to it – missing singing more regularly. She wrote in a harmony line for me. We strummed and plucked it out on guitars along with piano. And then…I felt like I needed to collapse and lay down. The kids looked so pathetic, too. Looking at Oz made me feel even more exhausted. I made an executive decision and we just went home. We’d been there for about 15 minutes.
Coming home didn’t feel like a relief though everyone went to bed fairly willingly after only a few reminders that Santa would come if they went to sleep now. I looked at the pile of presents that needed wrapping and the kitchen overrun with half-full sippy cups with clothes piled up on every flat surface. I wanted to wither away. I needed some elvish help STAT. I cleaned the kitchen, wrapped a few presents, and threw clothes into the baskets before crawling into bed. And a note to Pastor Daddy to finish the rest – which he did – saint that he is, thankfully.
I missed Christmas Eve.
The hymns. The candles. The children. The sermon. The laughter and hugs, handshakes, and greetings.
The moment where it feels like the earth shifts slightly like she’s remembering the weight of the angels’ presence or the despair of humanity lightened by the newborn cry of a baby. The shimmer of candlelight onto pews and faces. The breath of hope collectively exhaled into the air crystallized for a moment on a cold morning. The darkness pushes hard but the light resists and stands firm – a flickering and momentary swelling and pressing back. It’s a glistening on the periphery of my vision that disappears with only a little wetness barely the outline of a snowflake left behind. I always feel this something during this evening.
This time – time and exhaustion and stress and my own children’s cries swallowed up any possibility of it. Now it’s the end of the second day of Christmas, and all I can really think about is we are still a week away from the end of this holiday break.
I missed Christmas Eve.
But what bothers me the most is this just-trying-to-get-through-it, this skimming along the surface when I long to plunge the depths of the day-to-day. Because I’m missing out. Missing it. And yet, how do I do it without getting swallowed up by it all? I can’t help but think of Mary and the words of the hymn, Mary, did you know? But not “did you know that your baby would be a miracle-worker, teacher, activist, prophet, and savior of the world.” Did you know you would be consumed by the breath and heartbeat of your child?
Did you know that your life would no longer be yours? Saying yes not only to being theotokos – the bearer of God – but the bearer simply of a child? The bearer of a little universe with her own galaxies, sun and asteroids and falling stars where you would continuously feel the ebb and waves of his gravity?
Little Claire was born early morning on Christmas eve to a good friend here in town. And I feel that sigh and soul’s worth, I think, Jesus, yes, praise be, incarnate and Immanuel, squishy and sweet, a fresh baby, life presses on in the face of death but I think born of a woman, and it kind of wrecks me. Because I’m also thinking about Antonio’s, Tamir’s, Renisha’s, Michael’s, Aiyana’s, Nizah’s, Kayla’s, Rekia’s, Eric’s, John’s mothers, too. How life presses on in their flesh and blood though that blood is spilled daily, and though for centuries black bodies have and continue to bear this violence and death. Because I don’t know what I would do if my life and love, my whole world was stripped away from me. Mary knows about this horrible loss, too. She anticipated it. How she lived with that knowledge from day 1 without complete collapse is beyond me.
Solidarity comes in all shapes and sizes – people and narratives and miracles – and I feel Jesus’ presence more thinking about mothers, and the Mother of God these days. In a way, she kind of missed Christmas eve, too. She was having a baby, after all. But, Christmas eve, all the waiting, hoping, watching, it presses on. It keeps on. It keeps on. It keeps on.