December 13, 2014 – Babies and Timelines
Twelve days left today! In my house, the timeline is marked in the paper doors of an advent calendar and a chalk scribbled countdown. It’s a season of eager anticipation, but it still may be punctuated by bad news. There is not a time that is not marked by disasters, both man-made and natural, but there is a special cruelty of these tragedies marking a joyful season. Parents have to navigate explaining the tragedies and injustices of this holiday season to their children, and we all are faced with trying to figure out what is the balance of joyfulness of the season and navigating the other emotions of our life. Sorrow. Fear. Anxiety. Rage.
There is a period of years where I mark out time in the birth of my babies. While my instincts were driving me to prepare a space that was safe and gentle and loving, the world was reminding me of my inability to control the kind of world these children would inherit.
My belly was huge when the towers fell down. My nausea was doubled to think that I was bringing a child into such a cruel world. While I wanted nothing more than to bring him into a peaceful world, it did not surprise me that before he could talk, I was watching the destruction of Baghdad broadcast live during his naptime. I could have named him “Hurry to the spoils of war” like the prophetic family from today’s reading.
While I still held my next baby in my arms, I heard of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean which ripped apart families, just like mine. And those two babies were not in preschool before I was carrying my youngest and could see the news coverage of the devastation that flooded New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
What can one parent do but to hold her own babies close and try to remind the world to stay sane? For every disaster that troubled me from afar, I know that there were other mothers and fathers who carried their children with them through the devastation. Some of you are dealing with disasters close to home, or with destruction within your home.
We can place incredible pressure on ourselves to make every season of joy so extravagant that it suppresses any reminders of the darkness of the world. Let’s try to keep a perspective. Which is the greater tragedy, that your family didn’t get every item on their wish list or that they didn’t learn compassion? We have unrealistic goals that take away our fragile enjoyment of the simple pleasures. Be encouraged, this holiday season doesn’t have to be perfect.
Even if the birth of the prophet’s son was marked by turmoil, even if the coming of Christ was in a time of strife, even if our own lives are a mess, God is still Emmanuel, God with us.
Living God, who came and breathed among us, dwelt among us and suffered among us, be with those who face this season with deep complications and troubles. May a fraction of peace grow in each troubled heart and may the unreflectively joyful learn a bit of compassion. Amen