We sit at our well-worn dining room table. In our cozy house with a tin roof. Friends often said it felt like a retreat house. It rang true to my soul; the rhythm of a Seattle rain could lull and calm even the most distracted hearts. This December night, the sounds of the gentle rain seem to magnify as I listen to my husband’s end of the phone conversation.
Words like “What does the doctor say?” and “I can fly out tomorrow”, confirm the emergency on the other end. I look down at the scratches and nicks on the loved table. Slowly running my hands over them. My fingers have their own memory, of tears cried and joys celebrated around that table. Twenty years of its sturdiness absorbing it all.
It was my husband’s birthday. We were on our way out to celebrate. Or had we just gotten back? Funny how memory can see some things so vividly. And others fade into obscurity.
He was talking to his mom in South Carolina. Suddenly the country seemed even bigger and the distance from shore to shore more daunting. I put pieces together. His father had been rushed to the hospital. Congestive Heart Failure. As more information pours in over the next hours, he is stabilized and triple bypass surgery is scheduled for December 26th.
From Seattle we make our plans. I look into the huge brown eyes of our ten month old boy. It’s his first Christmas. So much newness for him. It was only two months earlier that he was placed in our arms and we journeyed, along with my in-laws, from Guatemala. A new home for him. New sights. New smells. New people.
For some reason I recall the first time I saw trust on his face. His finger was caught in the plastic bathtub and he looked up to me with panicked, searching eyes. Almost as if he was thinking, ‘she looks like someone who could do something about this.’ He relaxed into me. Beginning to know I would protect and fight and kiss all hurts away. For the fleeting moments that a mama can.
He looks at me with the same trust. This flurry of activity in the house. I hold him even more tenderly. Acutely aware of the fragility and gift of life. We fought so hard for him to be here. My father in law fighting hard, to be here.
We spend Christmas Day in a hospital room across the country. He meets an uncle and aunt who will become two of his biggest encouragers. Loving and rooting for him long before this first meeting. And cousins who will make him laugh like no others, he will come to want to be just like them.
And in that room are his Mamu and Papa. They have prayed and waited for him. Thrilled to have him, loving their role as grandparents. His Mamu and Papa; with forty something years of love between them. High school sweethearts facing a tomorrow they weren’t planning on. But they’ve built this foundation of a marriage and a family on One greater than them.
And in that room, Christ comes to us all. The birth of a babe, vulnerable and exposed. The birth of a king, in an unexpected place.
Christ comes to us, alone or surrounded by many. Christ comes to us, depressed, addicted or worn out. Christ comes to us, wearing our Sunday best, appearing to have it all together. Christ comes to us, around a Christmas tree or in a hospital room before surgery.
In the stark hallways, Jesus warmly whispered “Come to me all you who are tired and weary. All of you who have exhausted yourselves to make Christmas happen. And I will give you rest for your soul. And I will remind you that even in a small room with oxygen tanks and monitors, I can transform your hearts.”
Six years later his words tenderly draw me back to him. In the busyness of it all. Of pinning new recipes to try. Of holding on to beloved traditions. In the quietness. In the loudness. In all of the ways Christmas is celebrated, may I continue to make more room for this transformation, this redemption, this healing, that indeed his birth ushered in.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to see the ways Christ comes to us this Christmas.
PS My father in law had a long complicated surgery on the 26th. And a long hospital recovery. But with great joy, six years later he is fully enjoying retirement; traveling, playing the piano and doing so much that seemed impossible that Christmas day.
Melanie writes at www.bluemarblegod.com on noticing God in everyday life. She is most at home when curled up in a chair, with a chai, writing in her journal. She is the wife of a pastor and mother to an energetic little boy.
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