I met a friend at Target the day after Christmas. Specifically we met at the Starbucks in the Target. There is also a Starbucks in the Kroger, and in the Barnes and Noble . The Edgewood shopping center is convenient like that. You can get your coffee fix wherever you already are. No extra stop necessary.
I needed a planner. As we finished our drinks we wandered around the Target, my friend and I on a totally predictable and also perfect mom date I couldn’t seem to settle on one, but I did find an awesome Christmas tablecloth on clearance. Apparently, the Target clearance bins are not subject to the liturgical calendar. On the 26th of December Christmas has to go. By the time I checked out all the planners at Barnes and Noble and decided what I really needed at Target were some brush markers, the dollar spot had been completely cleared of Christmas, and Valentines day was securely in place.
Didn’t anyone tell Target there were twelve days of Christmas and we were only on number two? No time for lingering on the virgin birth of God in the flesh, we have the next thing to sell! The next to anticipate! Christmas trees are dropping their needles and we need to MOVE ON ALREADY. Those decorations are beautiful but we are tired of bumping our heads on the hanging garland and the tree is taking up too much room in the living area. We need more free space so we can embrace our NEW lives in our NEW year. Get that stuff put away.
This last day of Christmas I have to admit that I have been obsessed with Mary in a way that I haven’t been since I was great with child on Christmas Eve. Her life got totally jacked up. What dreams died to her the moment she said YES to God? What was she sacrificing? Did she ever grieve it, the way she thought things would go?
I wonder a lot about Mary, if people thought she was completely insane her entire life. If she ever looked God dead in the face and said “this is not what I signed up for.” I wonder if she ever felt like it wasn’t worth it, and sometimes I wonder if she was the first person the angel came to. I wonder sometimes if she wasn’t number three, two others too scared to be blessed by God. I don’t think this actually happened, but I don’t know that I would blame those ladies if it did.
I am wondering a lot about Mary, and the ways that saying a bold YES to God permanently inconvenienced her life, an unexpected pregnancy, a swift and terrified detour to Egypt, years without introducing Baby Jesus to her mom. I am sure, that it was awful watching Jesus on the cross, and I am sure that she had a unique and beautiful joy when she embraced the miracle of the resurrection. Only a mother’s love, you know?
I am 33 and could have retired as a teacher at 52. But instead I am in seminary, surrounded by mostly 20 somethings and wondering what the heck I am doing. Where will I be when this all ends? I have no idea. Church? maybe. Chaplaincy? Maybe. With a writing career that is helped by MDiv. beside my name? I don’t know. I know that this decision isn’t the safest financially. I look at the expression on my husbands face as the budget gets tighter and dream of a home where neither of us are in school. My kids will be 10 and 9 at my graduation. They don’t know a life where one of us isn’t in school. Going back to school was kind of inconvenient, it wasn’t what I planned.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the inconvenience of Jesus coming as a baby, for really all parties involved. Babies are a lot of things, but not exactly paradigms of efficiency. They come when they want, they sleep when they want, they spit and poop on whatever they want. Plans with a new born need to be flexible whether or not you plan them that way. I wonder if it also wasn’t inconvenient for God, to be cold and have no way to tell anyone to pull up his blanket a little, to become a human and not even have control over his bowels. I wonder if God also didn’t wish a little to move on already.
I have been thinking a lot, about how inconvenient twelve whole days of Christmas is. I think maybe God isn’t really interested in our convenience. I think maybe our need to move on already is exactly what needs interrupted. Twelve days of Christmas is terribly inconvenient, and being pregnant unexpectedly while still being a virgin is terribly inconvenient, and being a baby is inconvenient. I think perhaps that is exactly where we meet God.