You hollow us out, God,
so that we may carry you,
and you endlessly fill us
only to be emptied again.
Make smooth our inward spaces
and sturdy, that we may hold you
with less resistance
and bear you
with deeper grace.
– Jan Richardson
It’s Christmas Eve morning.
The cats are tearing back and forth through the living room, jumping over the couches via the computer. Broken ornaments cover the carpet, the corners and a bright silver angel’s wing lays on the hardwood floor.
I guess this is how it is.
Things fall down, get broken and we’re riding into Christmas on the white water rapids of chaos.
We’re down to one red bottle of antibiotics in the fridge, but every night is split still, not with angel choirs and shining stars, but coughing and cries of “Me need go potty!”
Every morning I brace both hands against my side, stifling sneezes and coughs, gasping in pain as even the weakest of jolts causes what feels like a broken rib to spasm. The doctor says it’s a virus that’s settled in the connective tissue of my ribs causing inflammation.
She sent me for an x-ray anyway and on Christmas Eve’s eve I stood in a thin white gown, shivering and leaning against the cool white screen while the machine looked through to the very bone and gristle of me.
Will those x-rays show that I threw my son’s breakfast out that morning after a bit of sass and told him he needed to make his own? Is there some spot, small and gray, that reveals the grief of my Grandmother’s passing, the memories of individually wrapped cut-out cookies she mailed at Christmas time?
It hit me yesterday – I had somehow come to expect this Christmas would be different. Last year, living in a grim apartment, we didn’t expect much and the day was great, we made-do and were surprised by grace.
But somehow, in a new house, with the kids a little older this year, I guess I gave in to that old illusion that maybe we could somehow rise above the chaos that is our every day, by which I mean to say, the house might be a little more tidy, the children a little less demanding, my body a little less failing.
The kids are clamoring now to wake up and the cat is breaking one last silver ball. The angel’s wing shimmers still in the lamp light. Soon they’ll descend the stairs and it will be what it will be – a messy, sometimes happy, sometimes sad kind of human holiday.
If angels appear, if light shatters the darkness, it will not be of our own making. It will be because we’ve dropped the pretense, kneeling to clean, to hug, to read and wait together – emptied, like Christ, humbled.