I’m having trouble sleeping these days. Part of it is the late stage of being pregnant, but the other part is the pictures that keep running through my mind.
|Not a picture of my friend|
The first is picture of a friend of mine, her significant other and their baby, a baby who was stillborn last week, just before full-term. In the picture, she is clutching the baby, wrapped up, close to her chest and her SO is leaned over them both, his head touching hers and his eyes on the baby. It is a nativity to behold.
The second image is the Pietà, Michaelangelo’s to be specific. I keep thinking of this image in connection with the violent deaths of the children of Sandy Hook, Connecticut. It is likely that most of those parents were not able to cradle the bodies of their babies- stopped from doing so because of the cause of death and the condition of the bodies. Thus, I think of that image of Mary cradling the grown Jesus and remembering in her mind how she held him so many times before. I know those parents are remembering every moment they held their children. The other thoughts that are probably running through their minds are too hard for me to imagine. Not impossible to imagine, but too hard for me to consider and still let go of my own toddler and refuse to live in fear.
These images are not only interfering with my sleep, but they are marching into the forefront of my mind as I try to prepare for Christmas. One of the things that I wrestle with all the time, theologically and personally, is the connection between Christmas and Easter. More specifically, the connection between Christmas and Good Friday. I do not accept that Jesus was born, destined for the cross. I am not resigned to the idea that betrayal and crucifixion were inevitable. My faith is anchored, beyond the veil, in the trust that God is bigger than all things, was revealing that power before Jesus, and that the Messiah came into the world to be the clear sign of that power and a clear revelation of God’s expectations of creation.
Death, violent or otherwise, was never a part of God’s intentions for creation. With our scientific minds (and I love science), we understand a cycle of birth, decay, and death. Yet, our faith teaches that this is not preordained. We are not born to die. We are born for life. We are gifted with faith for abundant life. Somehow, in some way, the Christmas story is the heart of this truth- that God came into the world in an expected way, so that we might believe and live. When death tries to trump that truth, life wins. Love wins. Joseph does not stone Mary. The childhood illnesses that could have claimed Jesus’ life do not succeed. The devil’s temptations do not stand. The threats of detractors do not hold water. The cross and tomb are not the final word. Incarnation leads to not to crucifixion, but to resurrection. Life wins.
In this season of grieving, personal and public, for my friends, for people I do not know, for our world, I do believe that life wins. The story of God’s entrance into the world as one of us is not the beginning of that theme, but the powerful plot twist that no one expected and that surprises us still.
Every death, every stillbirth, every child, every 110-year-old, is a death that is too soon when it precedes God’s final renewal of heaven and earth. Yet these deaths are not the final word. That Word is God’s. The Word that has always been with God, indeed the Word that is God, is life. Life.
There comes a point where I don’t have anything else to say and so I have to stop talking. The grief is too real. The pain is too sharp. The explanations are weak or non-existent.
And still hope flickers.
And still we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
And still Life shines through the darkness. And the darkness cannot overcome it.