post Christmas reflection

We took the family to church this morning for the Christmas Day service.  Attending church with Rachel and Janneke requires more work and muster than we have some weeks, but we rallied for today. It's one of the few places we take them other than school and the local Kiwanis pool that is accessible and do-able.

Yet, by the time the praise team had belted out their second line of O Come Let Us Adore Him, Janneke had enough. I glanced over at her screaming red face and took her to the back of the church where the portable partitions somewhat muted the songs of joy. She immediately settled and resumed her rocking and stimming while sittting on my lap.

I sat there with my 6 year old daughter on my lap, watching my church family worship and fellowship. Sitting at the back means I feel as if one foot is in the group and one foot is out. It means you have to concentrate a little more to listen and participate while also being privy to the number of people that slip out to pee and take babies to the nursery.

And so I sat with Janneke... trying to concentrate on Christmas.

I noticed the song What Child is This? was on the list for the morning's service. These Christmas songs sung repeatedly over the years carry many memories. We used to crowd into my grandparents' living room with my aunts, uncles and cousins and sing on Christmas Day. We took turns hollering out what song we should sing - traditional Christmas hymns with The 12 Days of Christmas - and of course, ending with Ere Zij God (traditional Dutch).

As a kid, I really liked the songs in minor key. What Child is This? was a favourite - and not just because it was one of the few times we could merrily sing out the word ass in church without getting a stern look. There was something about the melancholy tune and the words that brought some authenticity to the otherwise serene manger scene.

Today, as we sang the song, I couldn't help but wonder the same about the kid on my lap - albeit not sleeping. What child is this, Lord?... this six year old on my lap who is rocking and stimming?

There's a lot of holy adoration thrust at Mary at this time of year. Virgin birth, mother of the King. She was told that she'd be mother of the Son of God. So... when she was riding the donkey, feeling larger than a horse, and realized she'd be birthing this baby with Joseph and animals assisting, did she maybe question God on the whole plan? I've read the Psalms, and those poems are full of questions.

While trying to concentrate on Christmas with my six year old on my lap, I reflected that once again, my expectations have to take a back seat to the Big Picture. That's hard. I wish things could fall into place neatly, sorted, and alphabetized.


What I find fascinating and frustrating is that the Bible simply says, "and Mary pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart." Where is the passage that illustrates her disappointment? Did she ever want to storm at God for His mysterious ways?

This year has taken a toll on our mental health. When I read some of my words from a few years ago, the words about trusting God because He's got the future in His hands, I wonder if I am now jaded... it's not that I don't trust that God's got this. It's just that the more my children age and push the limits, the more I have to let go of more expectations or plans, the less I like trusting.

In my experience, when life brings you to the point where you are faced with your own vulnerability and fragility - not to mention the fragility of your child, you question -and with intensity- the source of your strength, in whatever you have rooted a belief.

Trusting is messy.

I'm guessing it was a messy virgin birth. I'm guessing it wasn't a serene as the Christmas cards depict. And I am guessing it wasn't at all what Mary expected.

But, the birth of that baby, of Christ, in all the smell and dirt means that I have the freedom to lament the loss of dreams, the change of plans all the while knowing that God's got this. The forever piling up of doubt and angst are still no match for the mustard-seed-sized faith.

Soon after the song finished, Soph came to the back to keep us company. She took Janneke onto her lap. Sitting back to watch them, I thought of the famous paintings of Madonna and Child - but instead this was Sophia and sister.

My child is this: a little sister who was unexpected yet planned. This one whose name means God's Grace. A spacious grace that is generous and unexpected.

Commence pondering and treasuring.