This week my Secret Santa at work gave me a bottle of Coke Zero. I don’t think he realized that the name on the back of the bottle was Scrooge. I laughed when I saw it, but then I internally nodded my head. Scrooge might be a good word to describe me right now.
Sixteen years ago I was in a reader’s theater performance at my college. We read The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s a beautiful book with illustrations of Giotto’s frescoes matched with musings and essays by L’Engle. I remember a portion about Mary and Gabriel, and about the Magnificat. I have always loved that passage in the Bible. Did I read that part for the reader’s theater? I can’t remember. I just remember the awe I felt at Mary’s passion and obedience.
Twenty years ago I was in a Christmas performance at the Christian school I went to during our furlough year from Thailand. I dressed up like Mary, cradled someone’s newborn baby, and sang Breath of Heaven (by Amy Grant). In the song, Mary is frightened and unsure, and yet she offers everything to God. It’s a moving song, and I felt Mary’s fear and love as I sang it.
This week a poem of mine called “Sainted” got published by Two Cities Review. It’s an online journal, but you have to have a subscription to view the poem, so I don’t have a way to share it, but I’ll excerpt it here:
I didn’t want
to be a goddess,
framed in flowers
and burnt wicks,
. . . .
I only wanted
the ache of mothering,
the quotidian life:
sew, sweep, cook, feed, cradle.
. . . .
When I said yes,
yes just meant
I am too scared
to say anything else.
For me, Advent has always come with a feeling of deep connection to Mary. I have longed for her love, her obedience, and her devotion. When I had children, I sensed her motherly spirit close to me.
But this year, I feel different. I feel Scroogey. It’s been a long, hard, fall. There have been bright spots, but it’s still been a rough few months in several ways. My heart just can’t relate to a revered, holy saint right now. I needed to make Mary more human. I needed to hear her in a different voice.
Christmas is a week away, and if I”m honest, my heart doesn’t carry the anticipation and joy that it’s carried in previous years. And you know what I’m telling myself? It’s okay. It’s really okay. The holidays are hard for a lot of people, and maybe they’ll be a little hard for me this year. I don’t have to fake it or put on a show or berate myself for not feeling something more positive.
There are small gifts that will carry me through. Yesterday I grabbed a drink with a good friend after work. In the evenings I get home and plug in the multi-colored Christmas lights on our tree and sit and look at its hand-made, colorful beauty. Over the next week, we’ll meet with various family members, and though my heart may be Scroogey, I will be surrounded by people who love and care for me.
This year I don’t have Mary’s passion or obedience. But I have her humanity: her aches, her disappointments, her loves, her fears, her secret dreams. And that is what I cling to. Maybe we all need a reminder that Mary was human, too.
This speaks to me on many fronts. I appreciate your work.
It helps me to remember that Mary also shared in the pain and heartbreak of mothering, too. Going through labor and giving birth are painful experiences. When it is a difficult year, I remind myself that pain is part of the nativity story just as much as the angels singing.
Mary can handle your Scroogey spirit just fine. She’s the best place to land with our feelings. Thanks always for your honesty.