We've got a little, child-crafted Advent wreath at home -- I think there must be a Biblical requirement that these be astonishing fire hazards -- and church is decked out in its purple finery. The third Advent candle was lit yesterday, but we didn't go because a second snowstorm in four days dumped on us, even though it isn't even honestly WINTER yet, and even though winters on Cape Cod are allegedly SO MILD YOU WON'T EVEN MIND THEM. Not that I exactly missed going to church. But I could have done without the additional 4 inches of wet snow, which has now frozen solid.
But I digress.
Christmas grumpiness notwithstanding, I am aware what it's Really All About.
Imagine: You are 35 weeks pregnant with your first child. You're as big as a friggin' house, and you haven't had a comfortable night's sleep in weeks as your very skeleton painfully protests its expansion. Childbirth is nearing. Angel, schmangel, you're still a bit afraid. Carry a baby for nine months yourself, angel, then tell me to be not afraid of its exit, mkay? You know the first birth is the hardest. You try not to wonder if you'll live to see your precious babe; many women don't, even strong young women such as you are. You take comfort in familiar things... preparing your home for the baby, staying close to your mother and sisters, aunts and cousins, women who will help you get through it. You're excited. God's child! It's still hard to believe this is happening to you. But it is, as baby will remind you with a solid kick in the gut any time your mind wanders.
Then your husband -- a kind and gentle man, but sometimes, honestly! -- comes home from work with the news that you have to go to the... how shall we say... humble? little burg of his birth, for a census, or some such nonsense. That means hauling your enormously pregnant self onto a donkey and bouncing directly on your already smooshed bladder for several days' travel. No, it can't wait till the baby comes, Joseph says. Pack up quick and say your good-byes, darlin', cause Ceasar says be counted, or else. Hey, maybe there'll be time to hang with the in-laws, if they still live around there. What? Why are you looking at me like that?
Oh. My. God. You want me to WHAT? you say, and not for the first time this year, to be sure.
But you go. It isn't Joseph's fault; there's no sense taking it out on him, but if you don't see another Roman for a while that'll be just fine with you, thank you very much.
You get through the journey. Joseph accommodates your frequent pee breaks with grace. You can tell he's getting worried about where to stay given how crowded Bethlehem will be, and you keep each others' spirits up as best you can.
By the time it becomes clear you will be giving birth in a STABLE, you are so tired of the travel, not to mention the donkey, that you can't even worry any more (although you will be careful in future not to say "what else could go wrong?!"). Also, you're in early labor, and you just want shelter. ANYWHERE.
Joseph does the best he can to get things clean and ready.
Contractions begin in earnest, and it seems you are not alone, after all.
Everything is all right. It hurts, but it is all right.
Jesus comes, and he is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.