for me (Advent 3)
My heart crawls slowly to the manger.
Friday afternoon, it feels like I can’t breathe, for thinking about the children, thinking about the tragedy, thinking about how everything here is a thin veil, torn away, and the ugly and the wound is deep and raw, this world we wander through feels dark. I sip tea, cry in my office, look forlornly at my post-it notes, because how, O Jesus, can you come into a place with this much hurting?
How can you come dwell with us, when you see us rip each other apart with words and deeds, a world violent and terrifying?
Sunday again, and I hold my breath when I see them coming through the white door. Because these are the children, just this age, in their red ruffled coats and big boy sneakers. These are the children, sticky fingers from dipping them in the glue bowl and anxious to tell me that they have been driving to see all the Christmas lights in their neighborhood. These are the children. And I whisper to them to listen closer, and to sit down, all the while wanting to hold them next to me and fix their pink hairbow and listen to them tell me about Horsey and Emma the bear and give them kisses because I don’t know what else to do, and I am 22 and helpless and in Sunday School.
Where we talk about a God of big love. Where we pray to Him, our voices piping up and running over each other. And we light three candles on the Advent wreath.
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.” “What does this mean?”Miss Andrea asks. It means something about this violent terrifying world of hurting, but I don’t know what. I whisper to myself, feeling Kate scooting her mat a little closer to mine. O Jesus, what are you doing?
The glue bowls sit untouched, the candles flicker. The clock ticks towards closing time. From the room next door, we can hear singing about Jesus the life. Our three to six year olds sigh and shuffle, and the purple cloth on the prayer table holds the dancing shadows from the flames. I hear rain outside, shiver. Kate hands me her pink hair bow – a gift, and puts her head on my knee.
“Who do you think the child is for?” She asks. There. The real question – the why is all of this happening. The question I want to ask Jesus, when I sit in my office fearful for life and light. Afraid of the dark again.
But Kate sits up straight, without her hairbow, and shouts to us on our mats, to the room, to the world – “FOR ME!”
For me. This child comes into this broken, bleeding world, for her. For each of them in the circle, for the teachers, wide-eyed in wonder, for the congregation, crying and praying Collect after Collect, for the families who sit in desperate grief, for each of us, who grieve next to them. The child comes for this: that each of us might have life so abundantly that we remember He has undone death. That we might be so wrapped in His love that though we walk in the valley, we fear nothing. That we might, each of us, pink hairbows and winter boots and bare feet and hungry eyes, know, know, like Kate knows: that YHWH is our Shepherd, and He is born for me.
My hearts makes it to the manger.