Yesterday, my elder child performed in the school’s Christmas concert. She had been pretty excited and anxious about the concert for weeks. They worked very hard in class, and she had been practicing daily at home. She was determined to learn the special songs so she could play them. Over these last months, she has asked me to sit nearby occasionally and listen; other times, I could hear the songs of the cello floating down the stairs. But none of that prepared me for what I saw yesterday. Yesterday, she sat tall in her chair, attentive, and calm. Suddenly, her arms look graceful and light. Her movements were like that of a dancer, able to beautifully coax out a tune from her curved instrument. I was stunned by her beauty, having never fully seen it before as she plugged away at home. My heart warmed, and was filled with love for the nimble creature – a child who certainly gives me a run for my money in fierceness, stubbornness, and independence, but also who I keep discovering I love more than I even understand.
As I have been thinking about that surge of love and awe for my child, I began to wonder if that was what Mary felt on that night Jesus was born. Her pregnancy was so fraught. From her bizarre conception story, to working out marital details with Joseph, to the encounter with her cousin Elizabeth, to the government’s census that forced her to travel while very pregnant, to replaying the conversation with the Angel Gabriel, knowing wondrous, awful, amazing things were to happen with her child. Though she seemed to embrace her role fully, I sometimes wonder whether she was able to feel love for the child who had brought so much chaos to her life – at least not until she laid eyes on him. I suspect only then, did her sense of purpose become intertwined with a sense of deep love – a sense of awe bigger than herself.
I think that is how God loves us. At times, I suspect God, like any parent, has a wicked eye roll and has mastered a deep sigh in response to our behavior. But I also imagine God has this deep sense of awe, wonder, and love for us – for the ways in which we can be beautiful to one another, the ways in which we use our gifts for good, and the ways in which we glorify God. I believe the entire Incarnation is due to this deep love – a love even deeper than we experience in those fleeting moments of insight with our children and one another. That realization is how I head into Christmas this year. Not thinking about cute babies, or crazy birth narratives necessarily, but in humbled awe of how much God loves us. When we catch a glimpse of that love, we do not really need anything else this Christmas. In this last week before Christmas, I invite you to consider the best gift that is waiting for you this year. Everything else is just trimming.