Here we are, bursting into winter. The season of buttery turkeys rolling in ovens and pumpkin décor losing it’s luster. This morning, frost dusts the ground like spices on cinnamon toast crunch. Zoe and Kaiden bundle up like stubby caterpillars and we march across the hard driveway: tiny Russian soldiers.
The car is frozen; whirled snowflakes ate the windshield. Our breath begins to steam. Hello winter! Thanksgiving. Christmas. Celebration. Darkness.
The darkness is a surprise every time. It creeps up after daylight savings, linking its hands into the day, relieving the sun of its duties. When we lived in Chicago, it felt like perpetual night. Darkness. Darkness. Darkness.
Two days ago, in the evening, I sat with Zoe and Kaiden on the couch. We Skyped with my sister who recently gave birth to her first child, Paxton. Officially, this makes me an aunt. I love saying his name: Paxton, The Paxman, Paxxy, Little Pax. Nicknames come easy with this one.
During our conversation, Paxton’s tiny eyes peered around the room, investigating every corner of the darkness that is November in New England. I thought: all he has known is black. Even blacker than this. He’s been encased in warm black ink as dark as the depths of sea. Then suddenly, haphazardly, light. Even this shadowy, crappy light is bright to him.
And here he is. The surest sign that fragility and tininess and smallness are nothing if not beautiful. Nothing if not Grace. How is it that a curled hand, a blinking blue eye, can come out of the soft black of a woman’s body and inspire such hope?
I want to touch his little fingernails. I want to remind myself that he is closer to heaven than I have been for a long time, this tiny salamander boy. Fresh off the boat from God, a stumbling passenger arriving bleary-eyed on earth.
Chris and I watched the Walking Dead the other day (I watched a total of 15 minutes of every 30 because it grosses me out). I hate zombies, but I was drawn into the drama for a few moments. There is a baby on the show that they are trying to save; this was the height of the drama for me. That blinking, smiling, laughing baby, completely oblivious to the peril and the human attempts to either save or hurt him. Just tottering around like tiny humans do.
Zombies were crashing and destroying and killing and this baby was oblivious to it all. It terrified me.
Somebody save that baby. Save yourself, you dumb baby! I cried into Chris’ shoulder.
The baby was a hindrance the entire time (as you can imagine, zombies + human babies are not really a recipe for successful survival). It made me so angry to see something so small and of such great value dropped amidst such great darkness. So helpless.
Why would the TV show creators do this? I swung between being angry with the baby for being a difficulty and then to being desperate for them to rescue the darn baby. Everything was riding on that child. Everything.
Just as for a new mother like my sister, everything is riding on an infant. For my sister, the world shrinks to a bedroom, a breast, a baby’s soft mouth and belly breathing; the whole universe becomes that single life nurtured into the light amidst the looming dark.
As we approach Christmas, I can’t but think that the most vulnerable example, the most holy and outrageous way for God to appear was through taking a baby, that precious savior, and placing him amongst the destruction. The slashing, the killing, the zombie-like stomp of Herod’s rampage. It’s the beginning of a terrible drama. Our whole world shrinks to the size of a hazelnut during this time of year as we await this infant who comes on a black silent night, his cry shattering the dark.
This then, must be how we learn to see a great light in the darkness. This then, must have been His message: I have brought light to great darkness.
And we respond back, as we clutch an infant against the black sky, completely helpless and wondering and wandering. We understand that we are clutching for the holy: Save the baby. Dear God. Please come, Emmanuel.