Saturday, December 24, 2011
The First Christmas
Today should have been our last Christmas. Our last Christmas before a lifetime of Christmases with our soon-to-be-here daughter, our first child. This was supposed to be our last Christmas without children. It was to be the last milestone before her birth. I should have been rubbing my humongous belly and happily bemoaning swollen ankles and a squashed bladder and baby kicks keeping me up nights.
Instead, our child is dead, stillborn. This Christmas is still a marker, a milestone, but not in the way that I expected. Instead of being the last date of joyful expectancy before our two grew into three, it is the first in a lifetime of anniversaries and milestones that remind us that we are missing a much-loved part of our family. It is the first Christmas in a life forever changed by the first-hand knowledge of how wrong things can go. It is my first Christmas with an amputated heart.
This is made all the more difficult by the fact that on Christmas we celebrate birth. We celebrate a pregnancy that was even more God-breathed than most, and we celebrate the Savior-Child that was born. Everywhere I go I hear songs of the coming baby, of Mary's joy, of arms cradling life.
It is hard.
But then I remember -- this Child came to die. His one purpose on this earth was to die, and to save us by His death. What's more, His Father let Him go to this death, a death marked by horror and inhumanity and betrayal. I can't imagine, can't imagine the screaming pain of choosing that for your child. The hurt of my own child's loss is so deep, so pervasive, and she was only taken from me. If I had chosen to let her die . . . the pain of that choice is unfathomable to me.
But God willingly chose His precious Son's death. And Jesus willingly accepted it. So even though the bounding Christmas festivities rub salt against my raw and wounded heart, I can't help but remember -- this Child whose birth we celebrate, He was born to die. And so are we -- born to die to ourselves that we might have the Life that is offered and, in turning our faces toward the sun, turn others with us.
This does not take away the nightmare of Eve's death, but it makes it feel less meaningless. I wonder if she, in her short life, lived a mircocosmic version of what all our lives should be -- born dead, but received into the arms of the Life-Giver. Born that her death might change the hearts of others. Born dead to turn us -- to turn me -- toward Home.
This does not make Eve's absence hurt less, but it is something. It is something real and good and worthy. I am grateful to have this, even if I can't have her.