Christmas Night

Fortune smiles on me.

Last night, after a leisurely day of doing stuff (including baking spritz cookies) Skarps and I headed to church. I was, once again, Mary in the Christmas tableaux. There is something about sitting up at the front of the church, with bright lights shining on you, knowing without looking that the pews are filled with parents, holding their children in velvet finery, eager and excited for what tonight and tomorrow will bring, and staring lovingly at a doll laid in a hay-filled manger, that brings the sacred close. My husband standing close by me, silently pretending to be the patient one who claimed a son who was not his. Sitting still in my blue gown and my chilly sandalled feet, I can only think of how much love there must have been that first night. Love of Mary, for this son she had brought into the world in such uncertain and difficult circumstance, love of Mary for the husband who guided her and protected her while honoring her purity, love of Mary for the God for whom she risked everything. There is Joseph, so kind where many other men would have turned their backs, loving his wife and the boy he will raise as his own son. The shepherds came to see the spectacle. The wise men came to see the king. And if God can be ascribed human emotions, how bitter sweet it must have been. To have a part of your own divinity be seperated from you, to have it live, breathe, eat and need tending. And to know that the worst of all things will happen. But yet, there is beauty in that moment of birth — whether it was ever there in fact, the moment has been beautiful in the imaginations of so many, it is beautiful by common consent.

Sitting up there, half-blinded by lights and blinking hard, I felt every piece of the history, pageantry, doctrine, faith, tradition, and hymns. I stole a forbidden glance at one of the shepherds. He was young, a first-grader named Noah, and oh-so sincere. He raised a hand to shield his eyes from the wonder of the angel Gabriel’s message, next to his father where the podium usually stands. He knows the truth. He could tell it to you if you asked.

And then my husband, in the guise of Joseph, carefully escorted me down to the pews. And quickly I shed my blue robes and snuck around the church to play “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World” on my trumpet. And afterwards I stood with my newly-returned-from-Puerto-Rico Sunday School kid next to me, and talked and rejoiced in my friends.

In the car, my husband and I sang through the Christmas section of a borrowed hymnal.

At his parents house, in front of the fire, we sang for them of the six-winged Seraphim. The cherubim with sleepless eyes.

Today, I have recieved a wealth of gifts. But the best of them were the joy in my grand-parents-in-laws’ faces as we talked to them. The enthusiasm with which my nephew exhorted us as we attempted to put together his pirate ship gift. The care with which my brother-in-law cooked our Christmas dinner. The health and vigor with which my father-in-law ate too much of it. The delight of calling my familiy, and comparing gift notes.

I got things, too. Many things. But the best things of this season are not things at all, but the chance to be a spiritual being. The chance to tell people you love them, and to hear it back. And the opportunity to be, just for a moment, Mary gazing at the Jesus-child in his manger, wondering at all those who came to honor his birth, and treasuring the memories of it in your heart.

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