Feels like Christmas

I saw an ad the other day for a mall here in Hong Kong, proclaiming it to be the place to experience a "True Christmas," on account of over 100 true Christmas trees. And of course, I scoffed, rolling my eyes at the idea that "true" Christmas is found in a mall, or in real Christmas trees, for that matter.
Until I remembered that shortly after we decorated and lit our Christmas tree (Finn's first "real" one) I thought to myself "it really feels like Christmas now."

Our Hong Kong Christmases (this is our third) have made it clear just how important the secular side of this holiday is to me, and I suspect, in fact, that most of my joy comes from cultural traditions more than the spiritual aspect. (This, in spite of the fact that we emphasize the spiritual side, observing advent, doing special advent devotions, etc.) But cookies and cards and decorations  ... it's just good. And when else in the year do we bring a whole tree inside our homes, for goodness' sake?

So anyway. I like the traditions. And I'm done with looking down on them, even when they have nothing to do with the nativity. (Well, I will look down on Porsche's advent calendar. Did you see that? Just a little obscene.)
This year our joy comes in large part to having a new baby around--watching Willa come into her personhood, and watching Finn fall in love with her.

Our joy, though, is tinged with grief--with a newly conscious and close understanding of sorrow, watching our friends watch their baby die. This feels like the first grown-up grief of our lives (or our friends' lives): No cookie-care-packages or positive attitudes will make this better. And I know that this is the point where I should say something inspirational about how the only answer to the real grief of a baby's death is the real Christmas--the baby in the manger. But though I can affirm that as true, what I believe, it's hard to make the connection right now.

Our joy also has an urgency to it, a responsibility, as if knowing how blessed we are compels us to remember it all the time. But of course, no one can live like that constantly, at least we can't. So we still get cross with Finn and tired of pacing the floor with Willa, even while crying inside for baby Jack and bracing ourselves for whatever other tragedy is waiting in the wings.

And so back to Christmas. The lines that ring in my head are from Rory Cooney's Carol of the Stranger: "Welcome tiny stranger, to hunger and frost, to armored invaders, to paradise lost."

Not very cheery I know. (And to be fair, we have Rosemary Clooney's version of Jingle Bells on repeat around here, so those words ring in my head too.)

But here's a truth I can affirm. If God didn't promise to protect us from all the bad things that can happen, God does promise God's presence with us in those bad things. And where is that presence more prominently displayed than in the form of a baby? God in flesh. Eternity trapped in mortality. A wonder, indeed.

Welcome, all Wonders in one sight!
   Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter, day in night,
   Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little One! Whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

(Richard Crashaw) 


MooreMama said...

About 6 years ago, my "work BFF", another close friend of ours, and I "decided" (haha) that we'd all get pregnant at the same time and have out babies together.
Three years later, we did. Those babies were Cash, Andee, and Callie. Callie was born 9/10, Andee was 9/17, and Cash was 11/1.

When Cash was 9 months old, he was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor and a team at OU Children's Hospital removed a softball sized tumor and his left kidney. When pathology came back, they discovered that it wasn't a Wilms tumor, it was the Wilms tumor's very nasty cousin - the Rhabdoid tumor. A scan revealed metz on his lungs, in his abdominal cavity, and a quarter-sized tumor in his brain.
Cash had 3 (or 4?) surgeries in the next few months and a very aggressive and specialized chemo regimin. He died last March, when he was 16 1/2 months old.

I look at my own miracle baby and see her running around, jabbering and laughing and dancing, and I wish more than anything that Cash was there with her, screaming "NO!" and laughing at his own silliness or turning circles until he collapsed in a dizzy giggly puddle on the floor.

It's hard, Monte. I don't have any advice or wise words, but I do know how looking at your own healthy baby can make your heart leap for joy and break into a million pieces all at the same time.

Monte said...

Thanks, Jessica. That's exactly what it feels like.

Krissie said...

yes, it's a very strange thing... I don't know that I've ever known sorrow or grief like I do right now for JJ and Erin and little Maya. I like what you had to say about God being present... it is so true.