St John’s Episcopal Church, Kirkland
In years to come I hope we remember it all, the sweet and the bitter. We need to remember the dark, hot shame as one place after another was suddenly ‘full’ when they heard our Galilean accents, saw our shabby clothes. Or the fear and panic when the labor pains started, the furtive rush into the stable out of the cold and dark when no one was looking. I want to remember how nervous, Joseph was trying to help, trying to do what my mother and sisters should have been there to do. He cursed the Emperor, the Governor, the whole cruel world that turned our plans upside down and cast us alone into the world, and brought us here.
We will remember the exhausted quiet, among the sleeping goats and cattle. I will remember the warm sleeping donkey I leaned against to feed our son his first meal. We will remember the wide dark sky, and stars too numerous to count shining so brightly they seemed to dance for the three of us. We will remember the shepherds, if possible even dirtier than we poor travelers, abashed but curious. We will remember their faces, lit with some glory we could barely understand. We will remember the words they spoke with exuberant gestures as they told their story.
In the bright light of this morning it all seems like a dream. But I pray we will remember. We must remember, he will need to know. He looks so ordinary, this baby of mine. Red faced and puckered like all the village babies. Just another little one crying for food, and warmth, and love. So little, so fragile. In the bright light of morning I wonder what our life will be like? I wonder if God chose rightly. Last night, telling the shepherds his name it was so easy to believe, their story and mine. Angels, can you imagine!
This morning he is just my little boy. And I have a thousand questions for my mother and my aunts. Today I begin to think about my son, about how we will raise him, about all I must do to help him live into the name the Angel gave him. Emmanuel, God with us. It is too heavy a name for such a tiny thing, when he is screaming for milk or fussing to be changed. Jeshua ben Joseph we will call him. I can see it in Joseph’s eyes, all the doubt gone, a boy. His boy, he’s already planning his first lessons, he’ll soon have made a child’s lathe.
I am dreaming too, walking, jiggling him on my shoulder, and patting his back. Dreaming of telling him of my ancestors, sharing the stories of our faith. Telling him the words of the shepherds. God is with us little one. God has not forgotten us. And I do not know how a baby, all pink and sleepy can bring God to us, but I will help you my son. Because God has made a promise, and God keeps promises. My heart sings as the bright sun kisses our faces, as I laugh at your surprised, blinking face, so offended at your first taste of daylight.
I am not cursing the Emperor this morning, God. I am rejoicing in you! Let your justice pour down like this blessed sunlight. You have wiped away my tears, and banished my fear and looking at my son I know: the world is about to turn. There are no angels singing, no one bothers us today. But I know, singing the songs of the temple to your baby ears. The world is new. Everything you see for the first time, remade! Every breath you take, a miracle. God is with us, yes, for God answers, God remembers, God acts.
As the swallows sweep out of the stable into the air, calling happy songs to another another I know: God is doing a new thing! God is with us here. For God sees us, sees all our fears, and our pain.
And God has called me, no one special, just me to turn the world. Now I see them coming, up from the village, faces wreathed with curiosity and something I haven’t seen in a long time: hope. The shepherds have told their story and now dear boy it is time for me to tell ours. Of angels, and gentle hearts full of forgiveness, and shepherds and mangers: and most of all little Jeshua of your name: Emmanuel. The story of our God, who is with us. I will tell them our story little one so that they may begin to feel it too: God is here, and the world is about to turn!