Friday, December 24, 2010
The Christmas Rose
My memories are many - and sweet - of singing with my children. From the first days of their lives, holding them gently in front of me, looking into those eyes that were so recently bound to me physically... inside of me, and now were a separate, breathing, heart-beating entity magically and lovingly created. I sang 'Ash Grove' and 'Summertime' and 'It Had to Be You'....... and continued to sing them every night putting them to bed after lights were out.
There were long car trips home to see grandmothers - 'journeys of misery' as my drama-queen daughter dubbed them - where we played the 'Matching Game' and sang at the top of our lungs along with the songs, repeated time after time until we were ready to move on, starting with all things Raffi and Hans Christian Andersen - 'Down By the Bay' and 'The Ugly Duckling' will always be songs with a story in our house - and eventually on to the Broadway musicals that inspired my talented babies eventually to recreate on the stage (Godspell and Les Mis to name a few).
I remember the first Christmas Eve service that my children stood with me in a darkened sanctuary and sang 'The Friendly Beasts'. That first Christmas Eve was the beginning of many family performances, eventually leading up to us singing together as a complete family - Tom included. Tom will say that these are among his favorite memories.
And there were the nights sitting in a darkened theater waiting to hear those grown babies singing from the stage while I sat, breath held, in the audience. And, yes, crying. For joy. For the memories. For love.
Babies. There is such magic and such power and such overwhelming and profound love that goes with that word. So much so that just trying to write this, the tears are streaming down my face.
And this time of year, I think of the baby that this whole season was created to celebrate. The Christmas Rose. My relationship to this baby is simple. I call myself a "Christmas Christian" because it is the life that this baby went on to lead that thrills and inspires me. I don't need or care whether he was the result of a miracle any greater than the pure miracle of conceiving and bearing a child into this world. I don't need a 'virgin birth'.... but I love the story and the tradition and the life that was the reason the story was ever told to begin with.
And I think of the mother, young and frightened, huge with a child that I know she wondered about. I'm referring to true 'wonder'... filled with awe at the absolute miracle of being able to help create and grow inside of her a human life until it was able to take its first breath independent of her body.
All mothers feel this way, don't they?
And then the miracle of delivering that child into the world and getting him through his first year, alive and well and walking. And then helping him learn to 'be' in this world on his own, year after year, kissing boo-boos and rocking to peaceful sleep and cheering him on as he continued to grow and separate more and more from where he first started.... deep inside of her, connected and part of.
And I remember standing in front of The Pieta in St. John's Basilica in Rome with my husband and the father of my babies, and weeping with him, at the sheer power and beauty of a mother's agony and love, holding her precious child in her arms. I was looking at a marble sculpture, but could literally feel the searing pain of that mother, holding her grown baby in her arms after his life had been extinguished.
At that moment I wanted to rattle the rafters of every public/political building in the world and throughout history that had ever entertained the discussion of war and death. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that babies were never made to slaughter. Only to love. We make our babies to live and thrive and love and continue on in the world, not to march into war and die. Mothers would never declare war.
Tom and I had been to Florence and saw so many of the Christian paintings of pain and torment and death. We wondered how anyone who had not been steeped in the stories of Christmas and a loving Christ wouldn't be frightened away by these images of sorrow and fear.
But this one sculpture, this Pieta..... this one silent declaration of love and loss and love eternal..... this could change the heart of anyone.
No, I don't need a virgin birth. And I don't require someone else dying for my sins. I believe we were all made in the image of God and will - all of us - return to that light and love, regardless of choices made or beliefs or lack thereof. I do pray for peace and compassion and enlightenment and awakening. And I pray that everyone who wants to hold a baby in their arms - and to sing to - would have that chance. And to see it grow strong, healthy and happy into a world of peace and purpose.
Because that, to me, is the Christmas miracle. That we can experience a Christmas Rose of our own.
Merry Christmas. Blessings and love.