Arrival

Baby Emma's arrival

A couple of days ago as I drove down the road, I passed a Christmas tree lot.  There were men taking down the proverbial big white bulb strings of lights that outlined their outdoor store.  A few forsaken trees lay toppled on the ground around them.  Whether satisfied with their sales or not, it was two days before the big day, and they were packing up.  Time to head home and perhaps trim the leftover trees.

This image is just one sign of what now has finally come.  Ready or not, Christmas has arrived.

Arrival is a great word.  Arrival is often the culmination of something eagerly anticipated—like a package in the mail, a plane carrying a dear friend, or the birth of a baby.  I have two friends that gave birth this year and one that is very ready to have her baby though she will have to wait until next year.

It’s been fun and a little strange to witness the life-changing event of a baby coming take place all around me.  I had Emma more than 11 years ago this year, yet some of my friends near my age are just starting their families.  My parenting skills span over a decade while they are learning how to change diapers and fuss with car seats.

But then again, Emma wasn’t planned.  No couple in their right mind would get pregnant while the wife was the sole bread winner and hubby went to school full time working on his masters.  No, that wouldn’t make sense at all.  But that’s exactly what happened.

We were limping along financially like many seminary couples around us, and I was on the road a bit promoting dramatic and musical resources for the company I worked for.  On one particular trip, I was very tired.  I had flown to a conference in California, so I thought I had a major case of jet lag or something.  I was downing coffee and mochas from the hotel café like nobody’s business.

Some of the ladies with me on the trip listened to me complain of my exhaustion and watched my coffee addiction increasing by the day until one of them finally said, “I bet you are pregnant.”  “Ha!” I confidently said, “I don’t think so.  Not me!”

But she had planted a seed—or maybe more of a weed.  And that weed of thought took over my brain until I was able to get home to take the pee-on-a-stick test.  Sure enough, while unknowing daddy-to-be sat trapped in the bathtub next to me (he had failed to notice that there was no shower in the apartment he picked out for us), I made the grand announcement: “We are pregnant.”

Happy panicking took place shortly there after.  We were in shock.  There were a lot of schizophrenic “yippees!” and “what!?” and “how will we…” and “let’s call our parents” all at the same time.  This was not in our plan, but the countdown to an arrival had already begun.

Much has been written about the arrival of Jesus into our world.  Yet the amazing birth that we celebrate today is still pretty hard to imagine.  The circumstances were complicated, the setting not even close to ideal, and two anxious first-time parents were ushered into a life they were unaccustomed to.  And on top of that, they were now mom and dad to the ruler of the universe, the Messiah.

Last week, I attended a service called Silent Night at my church.  I decided not to join my choir for the music, but to rather sit and listen and pray.  The service was focused on healing and hope, recognizing that many people do not have Happy Holidays or even anything close.  Many of us looking at the year behind wonder how we made it to Christmas at all.

At that service, as the message wound down, the priest asked us to close our eyes and use our imaginations for a moment.  He read us a story about a boat.

The boat comes from a distance towards the shore.  You are standing on that shore waiting. The passengers: Mary carrying the baby Jesus in her arms as they cross the choppy water. The vessel drifts in and then comes to a gentle stop; you go to meet the boat. Mary looks up at you and then lifts the swaddled baby up asking you if you will hold Jesus.

You reach out and place one hand under his head and one hand under his back until he is safely in your arms.  Holding baby Jesus next to you, you look down at his sweet face.  And he looks up at you.

Christmas is in your arms.

If you’ve ever held a baby, I’m betting this scene isn’t too hard to imagine. The simplicity and the beauty of Jesus coming as a baby never gets old.  The genius choice God made to come in this way is easy for me to understand as a parent because, no matter the circumstances that bring them into the world, babies are wonderful blessings.  We just sometimes fail to recognize that in our broken world.

So this year, whether it’s been a good one or a hard one, whether you have a new baby to enjoy, new dreams to pursue or you’re just struggling to get by, I hope that you will be able to focus on the one thing that matters.

The journey of another year almost over, let’s find ourselves at the manger reaching in to hold him–perfect joy and salvation in our arms–as we walk into a New Year filled with mystery and promise.

Merry Christmas everyone…

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2 Comments to “Arrival”

  1. Amazing thoughts. Especially of holding Christmas in your arms. May 2011 be a year of arrival of promise and joy!

  2. Thanks for these great comments Kim. You are indeed a gifted writer and these words, plus what you wrote in Nov. spoke to me. I have struggled with understanding….or even acknowledging that I had “Christmas is in my arms.” And even more challenged to know what to do with the baby beyond Dec. 25th.

    Thanks again my friend.

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