I dragged the kids to the grocery store this morning because we needed food and because it’s supposed to storm this afternoon and also because the Sunday before Christmas, I didn’t want to be out this afternoon.
Leila strolled proudly beside the cart singing her own rendition of Christmas carols. My fave was “Marching in the love of God because Christmas is coming…” There was also (yes, to the tune of Madonna) “CELEBRATE!! It’s Jesus, he’s our gift.” She carries a tune half decent (for a three year old) for the first line or two but then just keeps singing in her high-pitched voice.
If I had to label myself, I’d probably go with liberal Christian. We try to get to church (but haven’t gone in weeks), but we teach the girls about the true (as we see it) meaning of Christmas, say grace before dinner, bedtime prayers each evening and answer a lot of “why???” questions with the answers we believe. Where was I before I was in your belly? With God, waiting to come to us. Why did I start growing in your belly? Because God knew it was time for us to have a baby (and because I forgot to take my pill, but I leave that part out). Can we go to Heaven for a vacation? Uhhhh, no. Why do some of my friends at daycare have dark skin? Because God made people all different colours.
I understand and respect that many people don’t share my beliefs and I don’t preach about them, ever. I’d like to say for the record that I am completely pro-gay marriage and yes, I do believe in evolution. I also think that the Bible (this one’s a hot topic) doesn’t need to be taken word-for-word as it was written by men for men thousands of years ago. Sure, the Ten Commandments are pretty good rules to live by, but some things just aren’t applicable anymore (see gay marriage debate).
So many people get hung up on the institution of Christianity that they don’t seem to give it a chance. It’s flawed, of course it’s flawed. It’s an institution run by humans. We are flawed. There is no answer to questions about sexual and physical abuse, there is no answer to the hatred, to the millions that have been killed in God’s name. My sister-in-law told me once that she couldn’t believe in a God that let genocides happen. I understand that, but I don’t think that faith is something that makes the world a just place and it’s not something that can give answers. It’s hard for me to believe that violence is part of God’s plan. But faith makes my life better.
Last night, Alena couldn’t sleep. I rocked her as she tossed and squirmed in my arms. Steve came in and asked me if I wanted him to help, I had been carrying her all day, wiping her nose, rubbing her back, I was tired. But I said no. Because as I breathed in the lavender smell of shampoo, felt her feathery hair tickle my chin, I thanked God for this gift in my life.
The Christmas Story has come to mean so much more to me since I’ve been a mom. I think of poor Mary, riding a donkey while heavily pregnant (imagine). And I think of the labour pains, on her hands and knees rocking back and forth on the straw. I imagine the moment of crowning, the cries of pain and of strength that must have ripped from her body. And then the second before life, as the baby slides out and the mother looks at him, waiting, praying for that first wail. And it came, piercing the night, the urgent and shrill cry of a newborn. The afterbirth, the blood, all absorbed by straw, all observed by animals.
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
I feel that way about my own children. I felt reborn as a person when I became a mother. They are ever-beautiful to me.
Each night after story, Leila snuggles in closer. I pull the blankets up around us and she says, “Sing the mother and child one, mommy.”