Friday, December 30, 2011

Gifts of the Nativity

In Christmases past, I've dwelt on the shock of the incarnation.

That God Almighty should come in the vernix-covered flesh of a newborn, and stay with us. In all the muck of our experience, poopy stables to cruel palaces, and every imaginable place between. I remember once speaking at a women's Christmas breakfast and making a pretty pathetic crack about Joseph not having a shoelace (you know, to tie off the umbilical cord; traumatic birth and all). And yes, the more I hunker down with the gospels each year, the more I recognize it's truly there: the shock, the muck, the trauma.

But much, much deeper: the joy. The joy! God has come to share joy.

This year, I've recounted with Mary and Joseph their own little litany of Christmas joy, gifts that only God could have given them in welcoming Jesus...

For Mary, the gift of solidarity with an older woman of faith. The overlap of Elizabeth and Mary's pregnancies, a beautiful symmetry. The bubbling-over joy of these two women, young and old, plumbing the purposes of God in Mary's magnificat. I'm sure Mary stayed through to the arrival of John, gaining exposure, empowerment, and a sense of the strength of surrender to those good purposes in giving birth.

And oh, the gift of Joseph. What a guy! Honorable (and human) enough to agonize over the "immaculate conception," yet God-fearing enough to believe the angelic dream and stand by his girl. He would be her travel companion, co-parent, provider, protector (think of Herod's bloody emissaries to Bethlehem)... and am I imagining too much when I say lover? I only know that obedience to God is a plow that lays down a deep furrow for love.

The gift of their hiatus away from home. Not without hardship, to be sure, but what with the scandal involved, perhaps a nice way to begin married life. By the time they returned to Nazareth, they'd been seasoned by crowds and anonymity, the adoration of shepherds and wise men, the terror of refugee status, the recognition of priest and prophetess. Maybe small-town gossip paled in comparison.

To Joseph, the gift of a name. The angel in Matthew's account gives Joseph the fatherly task of naming the unborn child -- Son of God, yes -- but also Yeshua bar Joseph, son of David, deriving his family name from his earthly Daddy. Jesus would grow to embrace Joseph's trade, as well, living into his father's vocation even while preparing for his other Father's one.

And to back up a bit, what man in first-century Palestine would ever have the honor of delivering a son? Not to mention being the first, with trembling hands outstretched, to touch the Living God? We miss the providence in the nativity story when we notice only the ugliness and grit of the holy family's surroundings. Warm, dim, sheltered, undisturbed and supported by someone she trusted -- tradition and research both show that in these provisions, Mary had everything she needed for a satisfying birth. The bonding gift, to Joseph: that Jesus was the Only-Begotten-of-God, but also the Only-birthed-by-Mary-with-me!

And finally: the wonder of pain cut clean away by joy. It must have seemed to them the whole world was singing, pain cut clean away by joy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reuben's Song

bend low, grey skies
and tenderly descend
a thousand silver
tongues sing praise

lift up your fallen
eyes, you yellow plums
and welcome autumn's
branching silhouette

o let the apples
loose their stems
the waning garden
breathe amen...

I wrote this in the quiet anticipation and celebration of the days surrounding Reuben's birth, watching the fruit in our yard come to fullness and fall. I was intrigued by the almost sombre tone of surrender, thinking, "what kind of a birth poem is this, anyway?" But now I see a prophetic gift in these words: freedom to mourn the easy orbit of a one-child family; to release my eager expectation of being all things to both boys (impossible!); and to lift my heart in worship, even in the wrench of postpartum emotion.

These are the things our second son is teaching me, along with the necessity to drink deep of the fresh joy welling up in his eyes these days. He's a crooner, Reuben is, and I love the songs he sings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

mommy loves to wr -

A couple weeks ago, I found a shard of green chalk at the playground while Theo was rooting around in the sand for pine cones. I wrote Theo's name on the sidewalk for him, and after he eloquently scribbled over top of that for a while, started to write my own little message to the world: Mommy loves to wr -

Interrupted by one of those lazy fall wasps, meandering just a touch too near my son's face.

I'm amused by the turnings my mind takes when a piece of chalk turns up in the sand: First, that my son's name comes first; and then, when I'm with him, I'll always write Mommy for me; and if a dash away from his danger means a dash away from my self-expression, so be it.

But also that I still love to write. It's just that, at the moment, my voice is busy singing to a little one, and rediscovering the incredibly complex syllabics of our spoken word with him, and murmuring into the chosen, holy wordlessness of mother's milk.

So be it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

high time (for some new pictures)

Sorry, no time for captions. As you can see, we have a busy boy on our hands! Most of the pictures are self-explanatory, and if not, have great imaginative content...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Yes, we're all growing, our little family, more tender and tenacious even than our tomato seedlings...

Monday, April 20, 2009

food, glorious food!

Kickin back the beets!