It is time to drill down. Go deeper. Really consider this God-man and that God chooses to become one though a frightened little girl in a nothing town on a dirt road to nowhere.
Things are so lovely at Christmas. Everything is so charming. Colors are bright. Candy is sweet. Roasts are crispy and tender. Friends are near. Churches twinkle. Trees sparkle with lights and bright dangling spheres. Fireplaces roar and crackle. Tables glitter. Gowns nearly touch the floor. Gifts present in papers of red and gold. Stockings hang in great expectation of the bulges to come. Sinatra still sings these many years later. Still honey-voiced and charming even after so many honest biographies.
But Sinatra is the most honest and is the crow-bar I need this week. His double-life as Christmas entertainer and Vegas mob boss is more honest to me. It rings more true than the stage-set we construct this time of year.
Is all this charm really what Christmas is about? It is lovely, yes. But what if we were to drill down a bit deeper and grab onto the scandal of the God of the Cosmos in diapers? What of Mary’s pregnancy – a God in a belly? What of an umbilical cord, twisted and rotting as it dangles but is not yet dry, not yet removed – stinking? What of straw sticky with mucus and blood and what of a tiny foot with straw glued there by old fluids? What of the bit of feces Mary loosed in her pain at the end, a smudge on Jesus’ shoulder blade? What of reality?
Until the reality that God would choose to become meat, then nailed to wood, we have not fully engaged this work – this birth-giving you and I are here to do around this idea – this reality.
Recently, in church I was sitting in my stall by the altar draped in silks like the Infant of Prague. The great colulms surrounding my chair were covered by carved grapes and vines. The seat was of velvet and the arch over my body graceful. I felt like a statue in a niche. In a way, I was one. So I let my mind wander and soon I saw, on the carpet, by the steps, a small girl. She had dark skin and wore what seemed to be burlap. She had dirty feet and one of her toes was bent awkwardly off to an unnatural angle, as if she had had an accident and badly damaged it. Her feet were dirty and her hands were too – her fingers were all out-stretched as if betraying anxiety. And her black eyes were big, fearful. She was looking at the pulpit. Then she was gone, and it was time to sing another charming hymn. So we did.
What must it have been like for a twelve year old girl to greet an angel, say yes to the God of the Universe, agree to the most shameful situation a small girl could endure and then give birth to blood first on rough wooden flooring and then on a rough wooden cross? What must it have been like to be with God, in human form, for 33 years, hold him, rock him, have him stare into your face with source-love, and then let Him go?
I am a protestant. An Anglican, but a peaceful protestant. I do not believe about Mary what my beloved Roman Catholic friends believe and yet I understand why they do. I find I am able to, in no way, detract from Mary’s mysticism by refusing Mary’s divinity. At least not this week. This week she is a small, frightened girl, salty with sweat, moist with fears, hollow with grief and, yes, somehow holy too.