While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
~ Luke 2:6 - 7
This morning I was greeted by photos of a friend of mine with her newborn grandson. The baby sleeping, nestled against the nap of her neck, along with the family dog sleeping just beyond the two, keeping watch, caused me to stop and realize the many things that were happening in this photo.
My friend lost her spouse to cancer just days within the time period that their daughter shared that she was pregnant. It was one of those moments where joy and pain were inseparable, and then to try to find the words to describe that feeling, impossible.
I had been present with them the night before her spouse died, and I remember what I saw. My friend, nestled up against her spouse, as soft music played. The dog, again, just within arms reach, sleeping, but yet alert to anyone entering the room. Their daughter, rolled up in a blanket, silently watching, and waiting for the last breath to finally come, while her husband slowly stroked her hair, and offered support.
Two images of the same family. Two images that describe significant chapters, and both offering the image of peace and love.
This is their first Christmas with all the changes that have happened this year. Again, there is the joy and the pain. I think in many ways the two are connected. If it were not for pain, would we recognize when joy arrives, and without joy, would we ever move from beyond the pain?
The photo this morning also reminded me of the first Christmas that I experienced after the birth of our daughter. While she had been born at Eastertime, that first Christmas just seemed to be extra special. Somehow I could suddenly relate to an infant story that was part of my own experience. The feelings that I had about keeping her safe, doing anything I could to ensure that her needs were met, and knowing what it felt like to hold within my arms one of the most amazing gifts I have ever encountered in my life.
Somehow it impacted my faith in a way that I suddenly realized that the only true way for God to be truly with "us," was that God had to come to us incarnate as an infant. How else could we truly trust God? God came to us in the truest form of vulnerability, as an infant.
The infant sleeping on the chest of my friend did more than just bring comfort, he also has brought healing. The infant born in the darkness of the barn, nestled against the chest of a young Hebrew woman, brought hope. The infant that we celebrate this season reminds us that beyond all the pain that we may experience, that there will once again be joy.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.