Wednesday, 25 December 2013

"holy feelings"

For a couple of years now, this one line from O Holy Night 
has been my richest food for Christmas contemplation.

Long lay the world
 in sin and error pining
'til He appeared 
and the soul felt its worth. 

This year I was seized by something new, 
a longer meditation from What Child is This? 

Why lies He in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear -
for sinners here the silent Word lies pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, 
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

This, this is Christ the King, 
whom shepherds guard and angels sing. 
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, 
the Babe, the Son of Mary. 

I've been quite content to have these verses stuck in my head for days, 
to be thought over at every prayerful opportunity
(and to be sung aloud whenever I'm certain 
no one can overhear my near-perfect imitation 
of a musically-inclined dying cow in the stable at Bethlehem.)

Why is He in a stable, for goodness sake?!

fear.... thoughtful consideration should lead to trembling....

the silent Word is pleading.....

beloved baby, tortured and nailed to a cross three decades later = maternal nightmare

Word made flesh.


For days, it's been the big words in the first 2 verses that have most attracted my thoughts;
tonight it is simply the word haste and the urgency attached to the act of praise.

In all the rushing around before, during and "after"* Christmas, 
the only priority about which it is worthwhile to make haste  
is beelining to spend time in the presence of the Infant.

Can one even imagine the shepherds hearing the angelic tidings of a newborn Saviour 
and NOT rushing immediately to see Him?
Could they have moseyed over to Bethlehem? 
Could they have procrastinated, done some other things first,
(and then after doing those things, ended up being too tired/sleepy/wiped out?)

No! A thousand times No!

My goodness, the things that I felt necessary to do before spending time adoring baby Jesus
last night, this morning, today....

* Thank God that Christmas is not over. 
Thank God that tomorrow is Christmas, 
and the next day, and the day after.....
Because I want to do this better tomorrow. 
Tomorrow I want to truly make haste to His side. 

Tonight, at 8pm, 
when I finally carved out a nice big chunk of time from my celebration of Christ's birth 
so that I could think about and pay attention to Christ,
I drove over to our church and entered our little Adoration chapel. 
I waited and waited and waited for some appropriately holy feelings to come. 
A rush of joy....a little wonder...some otherworldly peace....


I tried to force some out - to squeeze something up out of the depths of my soul.

Then I felt the Lord asking me, 
What are you looking for? What is it you are seeking? 
Kelly - what do you want? What exactly is this "holy feeling" you desire?

I didn't have a clue. 
Seriously - I could have asked the Lord to make me feel anything at all, 
but actually.... I really didn't have the foggiest idea of what it was that I wanted. 

After considering it for a few minutes, 
I think I sort of wanted to feel a little like one of those shepherds, 
after they saw the angel(s) and rushed (making haste) to the stable and saw the Holy Family
  (but not exactly like one of them).  

And I knew that experiencing that particular cocktail of fear, wonder, joy, confusion and awe 
was not the gift that the Lord meant to give me tonight. 

Instead, He gently led me to remember my first nights 
utterly alone
with each of my four newborns. 

...and the "little kid first thing on Christmas morning" feeling I had 
every time the nurse woke me up in the hospital that first night of her life
and I would drowsily remember that I have a baby! and be suddenly and exuberantly WIDE AWAKE!
I remember most the perfect JOY.

....who slept very little that night she was born, choosing instead to 
stare peacefully into my reciprocating eyes almost the entire night.
I didn't even feel sleepy. She had the most stunningly beautiful, soulful, dark, dark eyes I had ever
 (and have ever) seen.
I remember most the perfect PEACE.

....who was under six pounds at discharge and seemed so very tiny and vulnerable to me, 
especially since he was too sleepy to nurse at all. I had to feed him hand-expressed milk, in his sleep, through a syringe - for the first week or more of his life.  I remember puzzling over the mystery of his incredibly tiny, fragile body, marvelling that an entire, functioning human person could fit into barely more than five pounds. 
I remember most the sense of profound WONDER & AWE.

...who was slightly more than 8.5 pounds and such an endearingly fat leprechaun of newborn, with a full ginger beard, red sideburns, and chunks of vernix oozing out of every single one of his abundant chubby rolls. From first sight, he made the nurses laugh, his parents laugh, his siblings laugh. There was such a crew to come and take him home, to give him the warmest welcome to our family and to laugh at and encourage him in everything he has accomplished this past year. 
I remember most the outpouring of LOVE.

My most precious, most sacred memories are these:
 my very first night with each child.
Each of those four nights was spent in the most intimate solitude - 
just tiny newborn and mother. 

Tonight, for the first time ever, 
I just pictured Mary alone with Jesus on their first night together.
No angels. No shepherds. No Joseph.
No one. 

Unlike Richard, Joseph did not have to kiss the newborn hello, make his wife comfortable and then hurry back to Nazareth to take care of the toddler and pre-school aged older siblings of the new baby.

But perhaps he left the stable for a half hour to find food or water for his wife. 
Maybe she sent him out for the 1 AD equivalent of nappies. 
Maybe he just had to use the potty himself.
 Surely at some point on that very first night, mother and infant enjoyed perfect solitude.


I tasted, not Mary's own experience, but the remembrance of a shadow of her experience. 
Sacred too. 

And I left the chapel suddenly aware that producing some allegedly "holy feelings" 
was not an act of perfect worship.
Desiring to give perfect worship was.

make haste....
 Venite Adoremus.

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