It’s early Saturday morning. Christmas is not even two days gone and already things are changing.
Ginger drove out about an hour ago to take her parents back to Birmingham after their two weeks with us. Since the V. A. is going to provide Rachel with some money to pay for some home healthcare, Lola, our oldest (and least social) Schnauzer is staying here with us so new people can come and go from the house without fear of ankle bites. Gracie went back to Alabama to continue her role as Chief Lover of Reuben, which she does fabulously. Ella will now have to get used to having a sister. Reuben had good days and hard days here, yet all of them reminded us he is slowly slipping away.
My brother, who came home from the hospital last Monday after spinal cord surgery, ended up back in the hospital last night because spinal fluid was leaking from the incision. The last word I had was he will be operated on again this morning; I’m still waiting for further word about what the surgery will involve. His primary surgeon is now on vacation and another doctor is stepping in; what seemed to be going so well a few days ago now feels more complicated.
I’m not sure how long Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem (the stable would not have lent itself to a long term lease, I imagine), from the dawn following the chorus of stars and shepherds, when things had quieted down, the stunning reality of their new little one must have begun to sink in. They were still not married. They were still poor. They were still whatever they were – or weren’t – before the child was born and now they had a little boy. They had been fundamentally changed by the birth. Life could not be as it was, period.
When they got to the Temple with the baby and Anna and Simeon gushed about his being the salvation of the world, I wonder if it crossed the parents’ minds to ask, “Exactly how is that going to come down?” or “Does that mean life will ever be any easier for us?”
When Simeon tells Mary a sword would pierce her heart, Luke leaves her silent.
As the Christmas tide rolls in, I feel the undertow of life as well; both things are real and true. Simeon had waited his whole life to see Jesus. His whole life. And when the child showed up, he responded with unmitigated joy. I can’t find an ounce of “what took you so long” in his words. Anna was no different. Her husband had died young and she had lived, widowed, in the Temple for decades. For both of them, the waiting had nurtured their sense of wonder rather than suffocating it or turning it to bitterness or resentment or despair.
We waited all through Advent for Jesus to be born. He is here and we are still waiting. And we will keep waiting, even as the tide rolls in.