true Christmas morning prayer…
that first Christmas, the one that for millennia we have gazed upon, meditated over, infused into our sugar-spun dreams, was as stripped-down as the ones perhaps unfurling under our own roofs this year.
there was no garland, only straw. no sparkly tree, only the boughs of whatever bush nestled against the flimsy walls of the barn. there were no carolers, only the lowing of the cow, and the clucking of the miserly hen who laid but one egg each dawn.
what was was a mother in labor, her anguished cries of birth echoed decades later in the anguish of beholding a necessary crucifixion, one ordained by the heavens. one that might have filled an earthly mother with undying rage. certainly the mother who types these words. but in the barn that inky night there was no rage, only cries that shattered pitch-black darkness, only cries of mother and, in time, the child.
what was was the bloody birth, the newborn soaked in waters of the womb.
what was was the gaze, eternal gaze, between mother and child, mother and the face of God. does not every mother see the face of God in the one pushed from her womb? in the one she calls her own, no matter how the child comes?
and so this Christmas, when all else is stripped away, when there are empty chairs at the table, when the oven holds less than half its usual Yuletide feast, when our arms cannot reach round the shoulders of those we love, when we cannot feel another’s heartbeat pressed against our own, we are flung into the whirl–the holy whirl–of empathies.
this is how Christmas feels to many. this is morning after morning when you awake to wanting.
and so my prayer this quiet Christmas is first and most for all those whose hearts ache, those who forage in the back alleys of this uncaring world, who go to sleep longing for a hand to hold in the hollow of the night, those who cry for justice from behind bars not of their own making.
my prayer is for those whose Christmas lullaby is the beep-beep-blip of some machine that keeps them alive.
my prayer is for the cold, cold of flesh and bone, and cold—so cold—of heart.
my prayer is for those whose gaze is washed with tears, stinging tears, all-alone tears, tears of please deliver me.
my prayer for each and all is that the blessedness of Christmas—the truth of newborn hope birthed after long hard labor, cradled heart against heart, entwined in love beyond measure from before first breath—my prayer is that the blessedness of Christmas settles deep inside the chambers of your soul, and that you look out upon a day, a world, in which radiance erupts through darkness, dawn after dawn. and all is holy, and holy is all.
merry blessed wonder of true Christmas.
a hundred blessings from here at the old maple table. sleep this year is in short supply, as we are spanning time zones from middle america to pacific northwest, filling the hours with as much Christmas as you can pack in itty-bitty phone lines. i wished for phones with smell last night, so my own firstborn–my heart’s pure joy–could inhale whatever was wafting from the oven. he said last night that he couldn’t imagine waking up on Christmas without the scents of bread pudding–the cinnamon, the egg + milk, the chunks of orchard apple. nor could i. but here it is. and next Christmas, God willing, it will be all the sweeter for its absence here this morning.
may your day be blessed. how will you make Christmas, true Christmas, come true this year?
image above, way above, is Albrecht Dürer’s The Nativity, 1511; image below is our little Christmas tree: what happens when you’re the last one to the tree lot (cuz you couldn’t bear to buy a tree till all your loves were home, and you finally realized that wasn’t going to happen this year….)
This is a different Christmas, with Zoom enabling our family to be as connected and healthy as possible. It is a quiet, humble Christmas (yes, I love your tree!), where yesterday I watched Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s and took in Pope Francis’ homily of heartfelt wisdom, followed by the live stream of a local church’s Mass where my cousin’s young adult daughters sang like angels. If it was a typical Christmas, I would not have discovered those gifts. Sad that your oldest could not be physically present. Blessings to you and all of my fellow chairs!
yes, yes, there are treasures tucked in the silver linings. we’ve not yet zoomed, but phone lines do seem stronger these days than back in the days of orange-juice cans and string threaded through the woods
AMEN to your prayer!
We played like Santa and drove up to Madison on Tuesday to deliver a carload of presents to Sarah and Cam who are staying home for Christmas. It was a quick masked meeting with Sarah in her school parking lot. Yesterday afternoon, we dropped off treats to folks we usually see on Christmas Eve – from Oak Park to Edgewater to Rogers Park and back to Skokie. We are connecting via FaceTime – played several rounds of our traditional ornament game and answered 35 Marcel Proust questions for some deep thinking last night and will be opening gifts together at 10am today; and via livestream Midnight Mass; and via zoom tonight for more silly games with our kids and their friends. It is a memorable holiday for sure.
Blessings to you and yours today and in 2021! xoxoxo
you are such a good elf!!!!! you’ve made the most of your gift-o-mobile this pandemic year, as time and again you’ve blessed us with tales of your magical rounds…..
sending blessings upon blessing. xox
Absolutely beautiful words ❤️
thank you, dear dear linda. xoxo hug from my house to yours….
Merry Christmas! Very quiet here, sitting with my tea, my husband and I waiting for our facetime call from California when My son, his wife and their four-year-old, my beautiful granddaughter, open their presents. A beautiful, serene blue sky overhead on a very chilly, but beautiful Christmas.
amen to that flurry of blessings, dear mary. at four, Christmas is glorious in its every form……
Truly, this is the perfect balm for today. Bless you. Have been sending love and prayers your way. 🎶🌲
Ohhhhh, honey, bless you. ❤️❤️
I very much enjoyed today’s post. I adore your mini tree.
Oh, goodness, thank you. Merry blessed little Christmas….
The Nativity picture is lovely too. I love etchings.
I must confess that I wasn’t at all into Christmas this year. Just not in the least interested. Like you, unable to see my firstborn (who, along with her husband, is recovering from covid) and the miles from their door to mine seem as far away as the moon. But, the birth of our Lord is worthy of our celebration, no matter what is going on in the world, or even down our lane. Your description of the manger scene, the lowly place where the magnificence of heaven came to earth, became so profoundly real. Thank you for the brilliant and beautiful reminder today.
Merry Christmas, dearest bam. xox
oh my sweet love…….giant hug, first. and joining right in with you in the hard-to-muster. and here it is, boxing day. a day when i might quietly sink into the threads of Christmas still shimmering, awaiting company…..(i am cooking Christmas dinner tonight, because last night, well last night we decided the leftover stuffed spinach pizza from Christmas Eve was really all we wanted anyway. and no one cooked!! a surprise sleigh ride to my mom’s front yard was about all the excitement any of us could muster…..) xoxoxo sending love to your glorious high desert. xoxo
Ah, Boxing Day, the day my mates in Great Britain celebrate – a “bank day” as they call it, when Christmas spills over. The sleigh ride sounds positively divine and that spinach pizza sounds scrummy (another British reference as I’m thinking of them today). The remnants of our Christmas dinner are tucked away in their containers and will be tonight’s dinner, so you and I have swapped our no-cook days. I’ve declared today a pajama day here at the sprawling VeNard Estate (lol) and I may not even comb my hair. It’s a day for lazing around, eating far too much leftovers of roast beast, scalloped potatoes, brown sugar orange glazed carrots, haricot vert (ooo la la), pie, cookies, etc., whilst watching my waistline expand (thank goodness for yoga pants and sweatshirts). Although that attire has become the LOTD (Look of the Day) for many telecommuting and Zooming their way to the office, that’s not been my daily routine, so I’ll take it when I can get it. Raising my cuppa (yes, another British reference, sorry) to you and sending blessings over the hills and dales to your leafy (although probably icy) lane near the shoreline of Lake Michigan (you know I adore your home). Forgive my rambling … many blessings today and always, dearest bam. You continue to be a wonder … xox