My second born had colic. During the day he was the sweetest child, but at night he turned into Mr. Jekyll, a screaming stranger.
My daughter, who was barely two, suddenly wouldn’t leave my side. Never. For any reason.
Needing a break, my husband took me out to dinner. Midway through our meal, the babysitter called and explained she couldn’t take anymore. In the background, I could hear my son’s pained crying and my daughter’s sobs. My spirit sunk as we drove home, with our food in takeout containers.
A week later, our church called and asked if we would be the Holy Family for Christmas Eve. Each year, a family, dressed in appropriate Bethlehem garb is asked to walk to the front of the church, pretending to be Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus – sort of like a living Nativity scene.
I told the Reverend that we couldn’t because of my son’s colic and my daughter’s refusal to leave my side. I was quite sure the Bible made no mention of Jesus’ older sister Shelby. The minister listened politely, and said, “We’ll count on you.”
Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck in her short story, The Christmas Story, describes a young mother’s anguish about giving birth to a boy on Christmas Eve.
“He’ll grow up and be a man and he’ll go off, too, to some Vietnam or other and be blown to pieces and all this will be of no use.” But what, the mother was thinking, was the use of this pain, this agony of birth, endured by women generation after generation, if people kept on killing each other, generation after generation?
After her son’s birth, the Doctor sends a photo to the husband in Vietnam. On the back of the photo he writes, “I wonder if long ago Mary knew that a great man had been born from her womb, a great man who would lead the world to peace, if men would follow him? Anyway, she hoped as all mothers’ hope! Who knows? I keep hoping; too, with every baby I deliver.
It was Christmas Eve 1993. My son was wrapped in swaddling clothes, my husband and I in robes, my daughter hanging on to my hem.
Just as we started to walk down the aisle, a happy young church member produced a big stuffed bear and asked my daughter if she’d like to go play. She looked at me, and then, for the first time in months cheerfully went off.
While the congregation sang “Silent Night,” we walked to the altar carrying a quiet child. I laid him in the manager and waited for his wails.
They never came.
For the first time in two and a half months he didn’t cry. His big eyes stared at everyone in wonderment.
We were at the front of the church for about 30 minutes, while everyone walked by to see “Baby Jesus.”
As the congregation walked out of the sanctuary, we left the alter and walked back to a room to change our clothes. Our daughter came back and crawled into my lap.
The next night the colic was back and continued for another month and a half. My daughter once again refused to leave my side.
But . . . a small miracle happened that night.
Every Christmas, I hope for a miracle. I know they can happen.
I think of how Christmas resonates with the symbolism of a child’s birth. Every time a baby is born, the promise, the hope that baby may be the person who can lead our world to a peaceful coexistence: where differences are respected, evil suppressed, and the joy of life celebrated.
Let this coming year be the beginning of that miracle.