The Eleventh Night of Christmas (the trials and joys of duplication)

Tree farm
reddit.com

‘Tis Christmas night eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1).

For the first time in the twelve-day Christmas numerical celebration, we face repetition.

One (1). And another one (1). [Though one (1) of the ones (1)s is really a ten (10)…]

But we have already had a one. And a ten (which includes a numerical (1) one).

**Corporate communal confession: we love newness, updates, next-best-things. We do not love the same-old-same-old. And what is “11” – (one-another-one) – but a visual reminder of same-of-same-old-repetitive-not-newness? 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11.

Can we shift (seismically) from a “same-old-same-old-monotonous” mindset to a “known-beloved-tradition” mindset: from a “something-bigger-better” palate to a “remember-repeat-savor” palate?

Can we settle into a place of wonderment and joy about the day-in-day-out repeated elements of meaningful life?

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) reminds me that duplication in daily life isn’t something to be avoided at all costs.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) challenges me that in the end, duplication is what God’s children are called to: that is, sharing the good news of Christmas (and its fuller narrative) with others so that they too may become a person who loves and follows Christ.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful repetitive earthly life.

Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful duplicating eternal life.

The Ninth Night of Christmas (Emmanuel still is)

winter pathway
(Pexhere.com Creative Commons)

What happens now? When the celebrations are over, the parties are past, and the excitement has settled into everyday-everynight life?

The baby’s been born. The angel’s have proclaimed. The shepherd’s have visited. The baby’s been marked as a chosen child of God. The child’s been named.

Seemingly the momentous and miraculous elements are done and past. Now it is time to find our own way – to wake, rise, feed, bathe, eat, rest, work, feed, eat, sleep, repeat.

But how do we repeat the daily mundane (over and over and over and over and over and over) when there are no more angelic choruses? no more heart-stopping first breaths? no more heavenly pronouncements of good news for all the earth? no more supernatural visits? no more Emmanuel?

Ah: Think. Listen. Reason.

Even if the angelic choruses, first breaths, heavenly pronouncements, and supernatural visits are past, this will never pass:

EMMANUEL.

God with us. God as us. God for us. God in us.

Though he arrived at a specific moment in time, he still is. He still is God. He still is here. He still is Emmanuel.

And that means there is no such thing as everyday-everynight meaningless mundane life.

If Emmanuel, then rejoice.

If Emmanuel, then life.

If Emmanuel, then hope.

If Emmanuel, then love.

Night nine is not the ninth cycle of the same. It is a new cycle, just as each day and night is … because Emmanuel.

The Eighth Night of Christmas (pain, tears, sadness, a name)

Stained glass depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus

I wonder if Mary slept on this night – the night when her tiny babe perhaps whimpered and wept in lingering pain.

On this day, her babe was circumcised, formally marked as a Jew, one of God’s chosen people.

God himself, marked as belonging to himself. Our faith is a paradox in countless ways.

On this day, her babe was named, formally identified as Yeshua bar Joseph. Jesus, son of Joseph. His earthly name for his earthly identity, which was fully him.

But also this: Christos, the only begotten of God. Messiah son of God. His essential name for his divine identity, which was fully him. The paradoxes are indeed countless.

But on this night, for the young mother Mary cradling her newborn babe, the paradoxes of name and identity and purpose matter little. For her, the paradoxes are more earthy, more present, more immediate:

I love this child more than anything I have ever loved…yet he is but eight days old.

I am exhausted beyond words, tired to death, weary in body and soul…yet I would move a mountain to protect and love my child.

I am ill-equipped for this task, unable to provide what any babe needs…yet I am Mother and Mary and Me, ready for all that lies ahead.

I wonder what Mary called her babe before he was named on this day, what she breathed into his ears as she held him at her breast, what she sang in her mind as she celebrated his life?

My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.

I wonder what God calls us as he breathes into our souls while cradling us in his loving arms, what he sings in his heart as he celebrates our life?

My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.

It is the eighth night of Christmas. The Christ-child is now marked and named. Are we?

 

The Sixth Night of Christmas (cold, snow, and Christmas still)

snowy_night_street

The sixth night of Christmas in the drowsy Midwest is perfectly cold (the kind of cold that bites into one’s bones) and beautifully snowy (the kind of snow that reflects in the night).

Christmas lights still flicker throughout the neighborhoods.

Christmas trees still stand, bare under the bottom branches.

Christmas cards pile high, some opened, some read, some set aside.

Christmas seasonal sections are swept aside – February 14th looms large.

Christmas music (except perhaps in the most festive of homes) is quiet.

Christmas leftovers are gone, chewed, swallowed, eaten right up.

Christmas – the extravaganza – has run its course and been boxed up for another year. We are now more interested in the wintry weather than the incarnated arrival.

But Christmas – the birth of Christ, the arrival of Emmanuel – has only just begun. It is less than one week old.

At six days old, a babe is still just an infant.

At six days in, Christmas is still just a breath – the first breath of good news, of real life, of God with us, of infinite breaths to come.

Breathe in the cold air. Feel it cleanse your lungs, freeze your worry, and clear your soul.

Look at the snow. See it blink in the night, light the dark, and dance in the wind.

And then start celebrating Christmas again, for infinite breaths to come.

 

 

 

 

The Fifth Night of Christmas (counting fingers, toes, and joy)

family hands

Over and over and over she counts them –

  • 1-2-3-4-5 fingers
  • 1-2-3-4-5 fingers
  • 1-2-3-4-5 toes
  • 1-2-3-4-5 toes

– kissing each one gently, joyfully, with her mother lips.

Each one accounted for. Each one warm with life. Each one astonishing, a miniature digit, marvelously made, wonderfully formed.

1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5 and 1-2-3-4-5.

Twenty breathtaking glimpses of glory. Twenty unique prints of divinity. Twenty brilliant points of life.

Could anything be more earthy, more human, more formed-of-dust than baby fingers and toes? Could anything be more delicate, more humble, more knit-together-in-a-mother’s-womb than baby fingers and toes? Could anything be more amazing, more astounding, more woven-together-in-the-dark-of-the-womb than baby fingers and toes?

Baby fingers and toes – whether on the incarnate God or each infant created in his image – reveal the true heart of the Almighty Father, a heart that counts and knows every finger, every toe, every hair, every cell, every child.

The Third Night of Christmas (finding a new rhythm)

baby fingers

When the birth is over, the angel song is silent, and the guests have departed – what next?

How do we find a new rhythm of existence when everything is new, upended, unsettled? (Surely new babies – and a thousand other things – unsettle everything about life.)

On the third night – when things were still brand new (but also seemed to have always been that way) – what did Mary and Joseph do with their new reality, the bundle of new life that depended on them utterly and wholly?

On that third night – when they were still in a strange place far from home (but what place, exactly? how long did they stay in the stable? the cave? did place open for them at an inn? did relatives make space for the young family?) – what did Mary and Joseph do now that two had become three?

On that third night – when God in flesh breathed earth’s air, drank mother’s milk, slept in father’s arms – what did creation feel in her roots and veins as her Maker joined the dance of human life upon her surface?

Christmas night three: a new rhythm begins in the young family, in the ancient creation, in the newborn babe.

(And the angel song – though silent on earth – continues reverberating across the heavens above.)