Forgive me. I woke before daybreak on an overcast Floridian morning, realizing there would be no child in the household, eager to open his first gifts surrounded by a loving family. I was tempted to grumble and let the Grinch steal Christmas, since my mother and I had been preparing for days, anticipating his arrival Christmas Eve. Secretly I’d been missing the times when all 4 of my children were still at home and for several days we’d enjoy baking and making gift baskets, Christmas concerts, visiting family, and making piles of gift wrapping in which our dog would romp and roll before it hit the recycling bin. But sometimes, even with the best laid plans, circumstances beyond our control require us to adapt our thinking and choices.
Through no fault of his own, my 8 month old grandson, who had boarded a sold-out flight with my daughter to come and join us for a few days, was suddenly taken to the emergency room with a spiking fever. It turned out to be treatable with medication and increased fluids, and the attending doctor confirmed it would have done more harm if the plane’s ascent and descent had increased the pressure on his small ears. I‘m thankful he’s safe and on the road to recovery, even if he and his mother are not with us for a day made special by the presence of children.
Earlier in the day, we had also heard from another of my sons, Benjamin, calling from an undisclosed location in the Middle East. It had heightened my awareness that prayers for the safety of all traveling, as well as his unit, was a priority in the midst of cleaning house and other things considered priorities in preparation for what millions around the world consider a Holy day. And it was no small consolation that my oldest son, David, arrived on-time aboard a later flight. His calm, mature demeanor and affectionate hug (and a Starbucks latte he thoughtfully produced while I negotiated the release of his sister’s bag that HAD made the flight), along with his forward-thinking conversation on the ride back to his grandmother’s, soothed a pallor of disappointment.
As we drove back from the airport, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Rumors” (my son’s recent discovery as “historically relevant music”), the darkness hid my amusement, as he then told me about the history of the Beatles, who I confessed hearing for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show broadcast in black and white. (What I love about young adults is being able to carry on informed conversations with them, but not so much the reality that I am becoming the history to which they refer!) David then talked about his plans to relocate to the other side of the country in pursuit of fresh, creative environments for his own songwriting efforts— a move I would never discourage for one so gifted, but another reminder to me that our children are not with us forever. I have to think in terms of “yet another place for me to visit” to get past the reality of distances growing between them and me. Every moment together counts.
All I had to offer him was a question: Did he notice anything about the hand-full of shells I’d picked up on the beach a few days ago, now cluttering my car console with dustings of sand? Astutely he noticed they were all translucent. Yes, the subject of my next writing…..another one about shells, because it’s not only the Conches that “speak” to us.
“Translucence”, according to Merriam-Webster, is something not completely clear or transparent, but clear enough for the light to pass through; to be free from disguise or falsehood. “Transparency” is being able to see through something as the light shines through it; openness in communication. The shells I had picked up on a recent beach-walk were in various stages of refinement—some more translucent than others. They were symbols of how each of us is in a different stage of spiritual growth–some are chipped, some bear uneven surfaces, some have sturdy physical frames and others, more fragile, the ones we see through with more ease. There is no pretense or hiding, no posturing or putting on a façade. They are what they are—–beautiful and transmitters of light in their own unique ways.
In a Google search of the words mentioned above, a group by the name of “Transparency International” popped up. Their vision is a “world in which government, politics, business, civil society, and the daily lives of people are free from corruption” and deceptions. A lofty vision, but one, none-the-less that resonates with a hope and prayers sent out with the message of Christmas.
Referencing Biblical scriptures:
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – I Corinthians 13:12 (New Living Translation)
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. – Philippians 2:15 (New Living Translation)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – I John 3:2 (English Standard)
Finally, a personal prayer I would offer with child-like faith this Christmas to all who might hear or see, and possibly believe: Holy Spirit, break down dividing walls of hostility to bring peace and restoration that passes all understanding. Help us to know, individually and as a greater community, you are a personal God, greater than all our sins and imperfections, whose light shines into the darkest of places, and enables us to forgive one another. Let light, like a river of love, flow out and through us to replace brokenness with healing in our families and even the world. Let us shine as lights in the universe, especially now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.