Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The beginning of the story

While decking the halls of my home with holiday cheer, I turned on the t.v. seeking some seasonal background accompaniment while hoping for something to put me in the right spirit. The Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph… any of them would suffice.
After more time channel surfing than my shortening attention span would allow, I eventually landed on Life is Beautiful, a movie about the Holocaust. Certainly, a holocaust movie was not at all what I was searching for to put me in the Christmas spirit; still, I had to watch because I had seen this film before. But this time it was more powerful. Knowing what was to happen, intensified the way I watched it. I knew the trials and tribulations the main character would have to go through, and this deeply touched me, as if I had an investment in his life. While watching scenes of the character in innocent, happy times, my heart ached for him, knowing what waited around the corner. I wanted to warn him. Somehow, my knowledge of how the story ended affected the way I looked at the beginning.
Finally, I had to continue decorating my house for Christmas and I pulled my nativity scene out of storage.
That’s when it hit me.
Setting up my nativity, I had that same empathetic feeling as when I watched the movie.
Carefully placing the stable on the table, I could feel the coldness of the holy family’s shelter on my hands. I knew what was going to happen inside those drafty walls.
I lifted my Joseph figure out of the box and placed him inside the shelter. His simple expression could not begin to hint at what I understood was in store for this earthly father---what he would have to go through to keep his family safe. Then, I held Mary in my hands and thought of her. So loving and peaceful. Her trusting words echoed in my head. "Let it be done to me according to your will." But could she possibly have known what was to happen to her son? I knew and I had this overwhelming desire to warn her.
Then it was time for the manger, simple and humble, to be placed in position.
Finally, I was ready for Jesus. So perfect and good –the figure was cast with a smile of rapturous joy on his baby face. Surrendering him to his manger of straw, I felt as if I were putting the lamb up for slaughter. And, indeed, I was.
I knew what was to happen 33 years later. I knew. God knew. Our Lord knew. And still it happened. Not in spite of this knowledge, but because of this knowledge –it happened.
Sitting before my nativity scene, I reflected on the Easter end of the story that begins at this Christmas season.
What a gift it is, knowing how this story ends. What an awesome responsibility we have, to take that knowledge and make the most of it—not just for Christmas, but our whole lives. For it is only because of this beginning and ending, that we have been offered the most beautiful beginning of all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Something to hold on to...

The mound of luggage and laundry left at the door by my college freshman returning home for the upcoming holidays almost tripped me. As I stumbled to avoid a fall, something caught my eye. Right on top of one of the overflowing laundry baskets, was a very tattered, very loved stuffed animal named Simba.
Simba, the young cub from the Lion King movie, was a gift my daughter received when she was four years old. From that day on, Simba would be a part of her life. Through strep throat, chicken pox, various stomach aliments and even a tonsillectomy, clutching this cub was the best medicine for her. When she finally overcame her fear of spending the night away from home, it was only if Simba could go with her. So, it was not at all a surprise when I noticed the stuffed animal stuffed into the personal belongings she was taking with her to Miami University.
And, now, standing by the door, I picked up this precious piece of my daughter’s childhood and I could not stop smiling.
I smiled thinking of the messy young woman who left the pile by the door. Still so familiar in so many ways. She has the same way of talking like the rapid ratta-tat-tat of a machine gun; and the same way of laughing a laugh that leaves energy in the room long after she walks out. All that has not changed. But still, there is something different about this child who walked out the door four short months ago only to walk back through the door a young woman with a bit more of the world in her baggage.
Yes, I know it’s called growing up, but to me it is more like growing into the person I knew she always was. Looking into your child’s face and seeing both the small child who clutches a stuffed animal for security, and the young adult who has been living away from you for awhile, is mystifying. And yet, somehow, so right.
I understand she will go out that door more and more, and one day more time will pass before she walks through it again.
And so I find myself clutching Simba, taking comfort in the fact that, like the raggedy stuffed animal, I know there is a part of me she always takes with her when she walks out that door, and whenever she returns.
Dirty laundry and all.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh, Come, Oh, Come…..

As I sat down at the computer to reflect on my excitement of the coming holiday season, I turned on my I-tunes Christmas list to hear some seasonal songs.
“Oh, come, oh, come, Emanuel…,” the Advent choir joyfully sang.
Unfortunately, before I could clasp onto my holiday thought, my attention was captured by an on-line news headline:
“Wal-Mart worker trampled to death by frenzied Black Friday shoppers”. Reading about the chaos in a New Jersey store, my up-lifted spirit took a turn downward. I shook my head as I read about the dead man in the headline as well as four other people –including an eight month pregnant woman being taken to the hospital –all because shoppers were trying to get the best gift to give at five in the morning, the day after Thanksgiving.
“Silent Night, Holy Night
All is calm, all is bright…”
The music playing on my computer tried to lighten the mood and return me to my holiday state of mind.
But that wasn’t to last for long as my eyes were drawn to another headline:
“Two shot dead in Toy’s R Us”.
Again, I read in disbelief of men who pulled guns on each other after a dispute in the middle of holiday bargain-seekers in a toy store, the day after Thanksgiving.
My computer playlist attempted to combat this:
“Oh, Come all ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant...”
The next on-line headline seemed to mock the joyful words as it broadcast the news:
Terror Strikes India as death toll rises to 195”.I couldn’t even click on the details this time.
I had simply wanted to write about Advent. I had wanted to write about the coming of Jesus. But was now the right time to talk of baby Jesus coming into the world? Was it appropriate to celebrate Him coming into a world that just can’t seem to get the message right?
“Oh Holy Night” then played on my computer:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”
All at once I understood.
There is no better time to celebrate Christ’s birth than right now. There is no better moment to get excited for the coming of our Savior than when the world so desperately needs one.
“For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”