Christmas Letter 2012: The Feast of the Epiphany
It has been 12 days, and the babe is sleeping warmly now against my chest in the meager rays of the early morning sun. I am healing. Joseph has stepped out, dutifully seeking a morning meal, and I am, for the moment, left alone in the silence and these scanty rays of the sun.
I look down into his small face, feel his real skin against my chest, and yet I wallow shamefully in my utter disbelief. I am only a child myself. Could this small bundle of human bone and skin truly be a future king? Born here? Entrusted to me? All the while, my sweet Joseph, my stranger-husband, still looks at me with a mixture of awe and skepticism. If the visitation speaks true, if this child is indeed who the angel proclaimed, then how are we to shield him? How are we to keep his secret?
And now it has been 12 days and I succumb to an impending sense of danger. I bite my cheek; I pray to God who is now silent. I do indeed cradle a miracle in my arms; yes, that I understand. But a child who is potentially nation-forming, world-saving? This I do not understand.
I hear a shuffle of footsteps and hoovesteps outside. A noticeable raising of dust. Voices resonate – deep, foreign – among them my husband’s, breathless and anxious. And now my fear overwhelms me, sticks in my throat. Someone is coming! They have found us! I look around desperately, but I cannot run; I cannot hide the child. With a prayer to my silent God, I turn the child’s face inward, clutch him tightly.
They enter: three enormous, heavily-robed men; they fill the room against my small stature. They wear foreign clothing, dusty from travel, yet clean in stitch. Joseph follows in behind them; his eyes reveal their usual skepticism, but also now, something else, something … hopeful? How can that be? Does he not realize the danger we are in? How we must protect the babe? My heart pounds against the child at my breast.
The three men – two elder and one younger -- do not carry swords, but each holds a bundle in his hands, wrapped in sackcloth, soiled from travel. Their eyes mirror Joseph’s: skepticism, and yet something else, something … wondrous? Their eyes delve deep into mine, descend to the child, and then rise back to me.
“Is this the child?” an elder one asks. He steps forward, tenuously. I remain silent, gently rear back, grip the child closer. I cannot meet his eyes. Instead, I look to Joseph for his guidance. He answers my askance and nods once at me.
“Yes,” I answer with a trembling voice, barely a whisper. Will they take him? Will they hurt him? Will they hurt me?
“He was born under the star?” the younger man now, not much older than I, steps forward with reigned eagerness. His eyes are wide, incredulous, vulnerable.
After a second nod from Joseph, “Yes,” I answer again, with a less quivering voice, but a heart that could break unto the world.
The third – the one with kindly eyes -- does not step forward. He stays behind the others, yet with bowed head and hushed tone inquires, “He is to be the King?”
I raise my wild eyes to him in disbelief. I inhale sharply, my blood turns to water. He spoke it. He spoke our secret! How does he know? Has he had a visitation, too? With a culminating desperation I look at Joseph, whose expression has mysteriously softened. I do not understand; I do not understand.
And that is when, on the twelfth day, the child – my son, my beloved son – stirs, reaches out his inconceivably beautiful little hand, lays it on my lips. I look down. He blinks, speaks to me with his eyes for the first time, then yawns, inhaling deeply the dust from these men and the Soul of the World. His sweet lips form a perfect O.
“Oh.” I understand. My heart breaks unto the world.
I look up. I answer the kindly eyes, “Yes, it is he. The one you seek.” And against every instinct, I shift his little body, so fragile, so flawless, in order that they can look upon his face. I expose him to these enormous musty men, to the unrelenting world, and to all that will come after. Their gaze on him is everlasting.
“Why have you come?” I ask them, although now I know. Now I finally understand.
It is the eldest who answers, now stepping forward, now kneeling next to me, divine light in his eyes, slowly unwrapping the bundle he carries.
“To adore Him,” he answers, for all eternity.
And at my feet, they lay three boxes.
In 2013, our epiphanies have been more earthly, more human-sized.
And yet they have come in threes.
Brian, age 13, learned
Through becoming a Star Scout, that he can work to attain Eagle within two years.
Through middle school life, that the world is only going to get bigger.
Through meeting Ronan Diaz, that there is an angelic beauty in human souls.
Therese, age 11, learned
Through earning her karate orange belt, that accomplishments can take a long time.
Through designing her new room, that she exudes more color than all the paint swatches in the world.
Through her last elementary school year, that she doesn’t always have to be stuck in the middle.
Ronan, age 8, learned
Through his soccer championship, that victory is great, but playing with friends on Country Hills Road is better.
Through his summer camp experience, that he must engage in order to receive.
Through the regrowth of his bludgeoned big toenail, that time heals all wounds.
Gabriel, age 46, learned
Through Tionol 2013, that his home is wherever his dearest friends are.
Through his formidable wave wall project, that his creative powers may have no limits.
Through his mother’s open heart surgery recovery, that he loves her.
Eileen, age 44, learned
Through countless hospital waiting rooms, that an absence of an answer is sometimes an answer in itself.
Through her sister’s engagement and her brother’s impending relocation, that her siblings are still her best friends.
Through writing this letter, that small wonders – small epiphanies – reveal divine light.
This Christmas Season, we wish unto you these three epiphanies:
To fear not the gifts of strangers.
To open your heart, although it may break unto the world.
To adore and to be adored.
Merry Christmas 2013 from the McKeagneys