Nine years ago, every morning I pulled on boots with my numb hands and leashed the dog. I marched resolutely through the frigid, exact 20 min walk I had mapped out for myself. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. With each step searing, burning pain radiated through my pelvis as if it were an egg of nerves ready to break open.
For the rest of the day, I would wander through my house from sitting, to standing, to lying and back through again. I felt untethered. Unable to work or even read a book due to the numbness in my hands I was restless and unsettled. Stuck in the waiting. In the middle place of anticipation mingled with fear of what the days to come would hold.
This was the first Christmas that would take on a new meaning for me. Gone were the Christmases of eager anticipation for gift opening, or later food hampers of food we didn’t even like and custody agreements.
This Christmas I came to understand something deeper. With My belly swollen beyond what I thought possible with my child due on Christmas day, I suddenly understood the hope and fears of anticipation. As Sarah Bessey puts it the stuff of God.
“Because this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places, the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?
This is the stuff of God.”
Shortly after Christmas, my baby would make her arrival. Not born in a stable, but in my bedroom after hours of sweat and tears and every other bodily fluid imaginable. Pain and breathing and feeling sure I was dying led to concentrated hard work of pushing, my whole body working towards bringing forth this new life (with or without my consent!), breaking open and then the joy and the exhaustion as I held her in my arms. She cried all night and nursed constantly. I hurt everywhere.
When I look at Mary in the nativity scenes I apologize that she doesn’t get the credit she deserves. If God created life, and baby Jesus was the incarnation of God then I’m sure his birth was messy too. I’m sure Mary was raw from the inside out. Heart aching with joy and fear and love, just as much as her nipples and her vagina.
The last few Christmas’s have been the joy of re-creating our own family traditions mixed with sleepless night from nursing babies. This Christmas I say goodbye to those days. The baby stuff is slowly trickling out of the house and now my children sit with me in solemnity as we light the advent candles. They know when we talk about Love, Peace, Joy and Hope that these come with the shadow feelings or hate and war, sadness and despair.
As I remold my faith, grieving and processing some of the old and embracing the new, I see the nativity story with new light. I’m free to wonder what happened that night and what it means now, I can exchange a knowing glance with Mary. We light the candles and we blow them out.
I wanted to present Advent in a way to my children that was meaningful for them and me, but most of the activities and readings I found online didn’t resonate with me, they didn’t feel meaningful, so I wrote my own. We rolled our candles from beeswax sheets and wrapped them in a wreath from the cuttings cast off from our Christmas tree.
I wrote a booklet swirling together sacred scriptures and modern quotes. Poetry and music. History and actions to take now to make advent real in our hearts and our home wherever we are in our faith journey.
I want to share it with you here. I know Advent is almost over and this is far from an edited version, but I hope that if you are searching for a deeper meaning to your Christmas this year that you download and print a copy as my gift to you. Take what feels meaningful to your and your family.
Just click the title or the picture below and download the pdf. (If you have any suggestions or edits I would love to hear them and incorporate in next years version! )
My hope is that in the midst of a world that is far from peace, we would know the love of friends and family that transcends the pain. That we would embrace the small things that bring us joy and slow down and see the light burning in all of us that is love, and light and life.
May you give love, and receive love this Christmas season no matter where you are on the journey.