I have always loved Christmas. Why not? It celebrates some of my favorite things: food, family, magic, snow, presents, winter, singing. Even when I was a kid, and I only understood the Christ part of Christmas on a basic level, I loved it. I think the Christ part of Christmas is something that everyone can enjoy, even if they don’t want to sign up for the whole Jesus-saves ball of wax. I remember seeing the Charlie Brown Christmas show and getting chills when Linus would say in his lispy little voice “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be for all the people.” The idea that a little baby being born can change everything, and that the tidings of great joy were for ALL the people.
For this reason, infertility was extra sucky and painful at Christmas. About two years before I got pregnant, a couple featuring a very pregnant woman got up to speak at church about how they felt about waiting for their child in the context of Advent, the season of waiting for the birth of Christ. It was one of my many painful moments, as I wondered how long my own Advent would go on.
Even as I bought it completely, I always worried about this idea that a little baby can change everything. There is nothing like the dream delayed to make you doubt the dream. Was I expecting way too much of a little baby, that if he ever got here he would “make us a family?” Family is where we find love and support, regardless of kids or biology or gender. If we couldn’t be a family without kids then we couldn’t expect kids to make us one. But still I hoped/knew there would be something on the other side and I hoped that we would be changed.
I have always loved Christmas because it’s about transformation. That one minute there is pregnant Mary, an ordinary young girl, and the next minute the sky is full of angels. A little baby inspires the thundering Handel chorus: Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. As I have stumbled through my life with so much brokenness and baggage, I have always chased after transformation, and sometimes found it. Don’t tell me that people don’t change. I know that I have.
Now that our precious baby is here, I can say that my Christmas dream is fulfilled. My husband and I have bloomed during our son’s first year. Much has been demanded of us physically and emotionally, but we’ve always had enough and have been able to give of ourselves joyfully most of the time. We both were so scared of how hard it would be, and we both feel that it hasn’t been nearly as hard as we feared. I have felt my heart, like the Grinch’s, grow at least two sizes bigger, and seen my husband’s grow as well.
It’s true that it’s unfair to expect a little helpless baby to make us a family. But ours has. Unlike the Christ child, Daniel is not our savior; but so much has been given to us through him. The absolute needs of a newborn are so raw yet so easy to meet. We are buried completely in the needing and the holding and feeding and I find it joyful and satisfying. When I can pick him up and feel his body relax with that little contented sigh, I feel some remembered comfort from my own babyhood and I feel more grown up than I ever have. Being able to take care of another human has taught me to take better care of myself. I have cried so many times at the sight of his sweet face, so perfect and vulnerable as he sleeps. We laugh a million times a day at his babbles and stumbles and tricks. He has shown us how incredibly fortunate we were before he came, and how our time of waiting strengthened our marriage and our resolve. He shows me every day how fearfully and wonderfully we humans are made, as he crawls and touches and grows into each new phase.
This was the perfect year for me to sing “Messiah” with our local symphony choir and it was my first time singing those choruses that I have loved for so long. I learned that some of them are built on dance rhythms of the time and I learned to recognize the musical contrasts between the majesty of God and the humble celebration of the people as we receive this hope of transformation. I choke up a bit when we get to “Hallelujah,” but what really gets me is “Unto Us a Child is Born.” Unto us. A son is given. He is a gift to us, not deserved, not earned, just: given. And so much more than we ever dared to hope.