Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Silent Nights

This poem was on The Writer's Almanac yesterday and it captured the heartache and beauty of Christmas for me.

by Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

As an adult, Christmas brings twinges of bittersweet with the joy. Those memories of years past, the excitement of childhood, the anticipation, the magic that comes with the smell of a pine tree and the twinkle of lights. Christmas, the story of Christ (even though, yes, I know that Jesus' birth didn't actually occur in the angelic manner described in Silent Night), resonates with me in an unexplainable way. Perhaps because now, I cringe at the thought of riding a donkey at any point during pregnancy, much less giving birth on a pile of dirty hay. Perhaps because I already know the ending of the story that begins with a manger and a star but closes with a night of agony on a cross; my mother's heart hurts for Mary and what awaits her.

My favorite Bible verse of all time speaks to me as a mother. I think about Mary, tired, sweaty, bleeding, holding a tiny, red, screaming infant in her arms, wondering if this was her miracle. (I also wonder, at times, if she felt a little cheated after all that angel build up.) Like most women in the Bible, Mary isn't much more than a bit player. I mean, yes she is Virgin Birth, but aside from being cherished for her virginity and a vessel for the Christ-child, she really isn't much more than a silent witness to the acts of her son. But the verse....makes her so....real.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

These words make me pause every time I read them, but especially during this time of year. What am I missing in the life of my child? What am I neglecting to treasure as I rush around to get through the day? This time of year, especially this verse read in the same breath as the Christmas story, reminds me to linger, to slow down, to listen, to treasure and to ponder the joys and wonder of my child because before long, all I will have are these few moments, treasured in my heart and my memories.