“The magic of the Incarnation was familiar when I came to adore, to behold, to be awed. But now I come with grief’s veil draped across my face. “
I bow low beside the Christ not because I am faithful, but because I cannot lift my head.
I have come to see His birth not because I am exceptionally spiritual, but because I am barely surviving.
And I know that this waiting is good. I know that this waiting is the refining work of budding holiness. I know that without the yearning and without the thirst, I might never experience the light of longing fulfilled.
But here I am, kneeling and bowing and barely surviving with two clenched hands on the side of the manger, while the last, wet drips of hope fall from my eyes. And all of the knowing in the world cannot fill the bottomless hole of deep pain.
I come with no gifts of gold or offerings of myrrh. My hands are the empty vessels of my spirit. My wounds are all I have to show for my coming.
The Child lies so close that I can smell his skin and sense his warmth, but I cannot lift my head or raise my body. I cannot see the Love of God come down.
Death’s darkness wraps me close and the company of loss holds me near. In the strangest way, loneliness is my most trusted companion, and sorrow my equal partner. The magic of the Incarnation was familiar when I came to adore, to behold, to be awed. But now I come with grief’s veil draped across my face. Where is the magic and dare I say, miracle, of this Incarnation when I come struggling to stand and laboring to lift my head?
My son has died. This fact seeps deeper inside of me than the truth I have come to see in the manger. My son has died. This reality is more real to me than the mystery that I have come to unfold in the Babe. My son has died. These four words wash over me like a mighty wave and run through me like a bulging vein. What might I see in the birth of the Christ Child that could be as true and real as the death of my own son?
My God is born. It is the truth of which I am sure, but do not feel. My God is born. It is the reality that I believe, but do not know. My God is born. These four words wash over me like fresh water and run through me like sweet wine. The truth of this holy birth does not diminish the pain of my earthly loss. It does not lessen the grief or soften the blow. It does not negate the sorrow or shorten the mourning.
But all I know is that I can hardly breathe, and right next to me God offers His lungs in the primal wails of a newborn boy. I am barely standing, and here within reach God will learn to crawl and walk along with me in the clumsy, fumbling stride of a toddler. I wonder how I will survive the day –to- day business of life with the constant stabbing of grief. And here in the flesh God, too, is learning to survive, only to bear the painful piercing of the ultimate grief.
So with my hands on the manger and my knees on the ground, I kneel. I kneel not because I am reverent or because I am righteous, but simply because I can no longer stand. My open wound and staggering loss are all I have to bring to this infant King.
My son has died, and my God is born.
May the pain and the power of these two truths keep me forever on my knees with my hands gripping the side of the manger. For perhaps it is only in this desperate kneeling that I will rise with the hand of Love Come Down.
Image credit: Scrapbook Sunburst Stock, by Backgroundsetc. on flickr